My last (and first) meal at Armando's 72-year-old restaurant in Brooklyn Heights was enjoyed this weekend beneath a water-damaged portrait of Marilyn Monroe, one-time habitue of the place, back when Arthur Miller lived in the neighborhood and the two were falling in love. The Brooklyn Dodgers drank here. So did Norman Mailer. But beginning in the mid-1990s, with an influx of chain stores to Montague Street, Armando's began to feel the pinch.
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It was quiet at lunchtime, only a few tables occupied. At the bar, the regulars gathered for last drinks. "Where ya going?" they asked each other, wondering what the new hangout would be after Armando's is gone. Shrugs all around. Mancuso's? Harry's? "That's long gone, didn't you know." Callahan's? Joe's? "You can all come up to my apartment!" Laughter.
The place was closing at 9:00, the free drinks would start at 6:00, they said, but keep it quiet. Someone wisecracked, "I swear to God, if a stranger comes in here for free drinks, I'll break his arms." More laughter. Hugs and kisses as familiar faces came and went. They exchanged phone numbers. "Call me," they said, "Let's stay in touch. We'll have lunch." But where? Armando's is gone and only the chain stores and the fast-food joints will remain.