Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Waverly Diner

As we heard in July, the Waverly restaurant is being gutted for a renovation, its first in 30 years. Recently, a peek through the open door revealed the carnage:



Before the gutting, New York magazine called the old aesthetic: "working-class steakhouse with dark-wood paneling, snug, vinyl-padded booths" where "you just might reinterpret those black-and-white actors’ eight-by-tens lining the perimeter as a forgotten pantheon: patron saints of cheap food, fast service, and fading traditions."



Fading is right. When the Waverly replaced their neon sign in 2008, we lost "STEAKS CHOPS SEAFOOD." (See also Lost City's "Fall of the Chop.") That was the beginning.

Here's what the diner will look like after the renovation, sort of Southwestern, the moody dark-wood paneling replaced by something optimistic and sandy beige:


Jorge Fontan

It's too bright for my taste, too bland. And I have to wonder: What will happen to all those forgotten actors' 8x10s? And will the bacon and eggs still be served in a battered frying pan on a block of wood?

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

When I was in NYC two years ago I ate at the Waverly Diner quite a bit. I had my own booth thanks to the nice waiters who kind of adopted me the first day I walked in. I loved the vintage New York look, it made the place special, but now it will be like every other eatery in the city. Too bad.

Grade "A" Fancy said...

Great. Big improvement, from 1970 all the way to 1986. sigh.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Sad.

Avia said...

I have been going to the Waverly Diner for probably 40 years. One of the waitresses there (I think her name was Pat) gave me the highchair she had used for her daughter when my oldest(now 24)was born. Every Friday after going out to dance clubs we would stop there for breakfast...at un-Godly hours of course. It is a tiny piece of the NY I know and love now gone....I barely recognize the old neighborhood anymore

AFineLyne said...

Does anyone know when it's scheduled to reopen?

Mitch said...

Anyone know what it looked like before the last renovation? I was never a great fan of the cheesy paneling.

Anonymous said...

At least it's staying open. I will however, miss the Carlo Rossi bottles that were on the shelf.

Marty Wombacher said...

Ugh. Another loss in my neighborhood. I wonder if the staff will lose their jobs? I bet they just threw away all those B&W 8x10's I used to love looking at while eating a Patty Melt in there. I'm really dreading seeing the "new" Waverly.

Anonymous said...

When I was in high school in the 80s, my friends and I hung out there for ridiculously long stretches of time. We were too young to go to bars, which became especially hard to get into after the Robert Chambers' Central Park murder rage, and the Waverly was a great option, being so centrally located. We'd usually go to a movie at the old Waverly theater (now IFC), then hit the Waverly diner (we called it a "coffee shop" back then) for double bacon cheeseburger deluxes and literally gallons of coffee (free refills, you see). That we were pals with the night-shift waiter, Manny, only partly explained the fact that we never got kicked out of there after our fourth hour in the booth. I'm not sure you could do that today. Some time in the 90s I ran into Manny at a diner in Brooklyn Heights--we'd both moved on from the Waverly by then, the old era was already faded into the past, but I still always loved going by the Waverly every now and then and seeing it exactly as it was when my pals would haunt it late into the night, watching the city go past the big front window. This renovation was inevitable, but for some of us, it's still heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

its not cozy anymore. everyones a copy cat. they cant just leave things alone.

Goggla said...

This was the first diner I went to in NYC and I continued to go often over the years. I loved the omelet, served with real hashbrowns in a skillet. The interior was cozy and comfortable, a place I enjoyed spending time. Sigh.

Caleo said...

How anyone would think an all beige renovation could look good is frightening.
Now it looks like a hospital waiting room.

Anonymous said...

@Marty - The WAVERLY MELT platter is my FAVORITE THING in the world after a night of drinking.

Wadjet Eye said...

Several years ago I had a quick breakfast at the Waverly Diner. I had a train to catch, but I lingered a bit too long. When I noticed the time, I frantically signaled for the check. It came to something around 13 bucks. I gave the waitress a twenty, and she came back with my change. I put a few bucks on the table for a tip and rushed out, hellbent on going to the subway.

As I got halfway across the street, one of the staff chased out after me screaming bloody murder. It turned out the waitress hadn't given me change after all, but simple broke my twenty into smaller bills. I was in such a rush I didn't bother counting! The guy was understandably pissed. I sheepishly paid him and left.

It's ten years later and I've been too embarrassed to go back! I guess it's too late, now.

onemorefoldedsunset said...

What a sad future that renovation picture reveals. Ugh.

James Campbell Taylor said...

Have there ever been more frequently ignored words of advice than "If it ain't broke..."?

bjs said...

Isn't 2 months-plus too long for a small business to stay closed for renovations? I'm afraid something happened. The whole place is boarded up with plywood, but I chalked this up to the hurricane threat. But last night when I walked by THE NEON SIGN WAS GONE ON THE SIXTH AVENUE SIDE.
Large framed photos of the Waverly are a mainstay in the local frame shops. Now I'm going to have to buy one. Complete with STEAKS CHOPS SEA FOOD.

Marty Wombacher said...

@bjs: That is bad news about the sign! Let's hope they're just fixing it/refurbishing it. That would be a big loss. I'm hoping for the best, expecting the worst.

Anonymous said...

I once calculated that I'd spent more time in the Waverly smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee with my friends than I had doing virtually anything else. Once, a group of us spent an entire night there, each having told our parents we were staying at someone else's house. I grew up in the 90's on St. Marks Place in the east village and at this point it seems like most of the places that made up my New York have vanished in the intervening years- CBGB, the Kiev, the Amato, the 2nd Ave Deli (I know it moved uptown, but it's not the same.), Love Saves the Day and Joe Jr.'s to name a few- as the city gets more and more homogenized. They all leave behind sad nostalgic holes in my memory, but none have quite the same significance as the Waverly. It was special not because it was famous or even all that good but because it felt like it belonged to us. The Waverly was a kind of home. I'll miss it more than I can say.

Steve H said...

This is going to suck. I loved Waverlys. JUST THE WAY IT WAS!

Well, OK, they could have torn out and rebuilt the nasty bathrooms, but otherwise? Not only did they provide comfort food.. at all drunken hours.. the place itself was used, warm & comfortable. The way it should be!

IF it actually does reopen.. and that rendition pic you have is the real plan? HORRIBLE! Yes, it's way too bright. It looks like a school cafeteria. Dull. Cold & unwelcoming.

Twice in over 10 years going there, I actually didn't have enough $$ to pay my tab, and the ATM wasn't working. As a regular, they said, don't worry, just stop by when you can & pay it.

You just DO NOT find that kind of service & hospitality in the city!

And no doubt, when/if it reopens.. it will be new staff, and you can kiss that hospitality goodbye.

Sigh..

R.I.P. Waverlys. Thanks for all the great memories!

- A loving customer

vk said...

Why can't they leave anything alone? This is so sad. I visited NYC in June, stayed a week and ate at the Waverly several times. Classic New York place with fantastic signage, great neon. Can't believe they got rid of that sign, so little neon left in Manhattan now. They place was always heaving, people loved it as it was, why change it? I'm from London, have always been fascinated with NY. I was last there in the 80s, so many changes...I'm just glad I was there in June.

Anonymous said...

I was wrong, and I'm so glad!
The boards have come off the windows, which are now half-covered with brown paper on the inside, and you can see light fixtures hanging from the ceiling.
I know it's not going to be the old Waverly, but at least it's coming back.
Unless it's going to be Ray's Pizza (that's a joke).

Jeremiah Moss said...

Anon, thanks for the tip. i just did a post on it--and it doesn't look so bad.