Miracle of the Market Diner
When the wonderful Market Diner closed in 2006, it seemed yet another predictable chapter in the whittling away of New York's soul. The place was loaded with history and charm, including the Googie decor and signage, the lore of late-night meals with Frank Sinatra and the Westies, and, well, that parking lot, a head-scratcher in Manhattan but logical given its appeal to cabbies as well as suburbanites who could indulge a midnight snack just a block away from the West Side Highway.
We last swung by its abandoned home at West 43rd Street and 11th Avenue in July, and found weeds growing in the parking lot and the sense that this place had an inevitable date with the wrecking ball. But, folks, the Market Diner is getting its soul back.
The New York Times is reporting that the diner will reopen in its old home in about two months, now under the control of the family behind the venerable Cosmic Diner, which recently moved from its longtime, soulful Columbus Circle perch. The family told the Times the new Market Diner may go a tad more upscale, add a bar, and yes, even sacrifice that parking space for outdoor seating. Indeed, when the diner opened in 1962, this area was not even remotely like the residential enclave it is becoming, so trading parking spaces for tables makes sense. It's those new residents that made the diner an attractive opportunity for the new proprietors. So this is a curious outcome: The gentrification of Hell's Kitchen and environs has helped destroy interesting places, but, in this case, may be reviving one that was killed by those same forces.
The Market Diner was a welcome spot for us on many a late night. We could never get over the novelty of parking our car in a diner parking lot -- in Manhattan! The burger and fries were always solid, and hit the spot after our long drive back to Manhattan from Newsday in Melville.
The diner's return -- parking lot or not -- is great news, and is nicely timed, coming a day after we had our last meal at Armando's in Brooklyn Heights.(You must go, it closes Sunday; try the Chicken Rollatini. And watch for our blog post later this weekend.)
The family taking over the Market Diner won't be paying the about $500,000 a year in rent the landlord had been seeking, the Times reports, though how much it will pay is not known.
In a separate but important matter, the article didn't address how sensitive the new hands will be to the original decor and signage. My first hopeful guess would be that these features won't be seriously fiddled with -- after all, they are part of the joint's appeal.
So to the Market Diner, we offer a hearty welcome back! We'll add your name to the list of miracles that include the revived Second Avenue Deli.
-- Rolando Pujol