Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tiffany Diner

I've been reading David Wojnarowicz's diaries, In the Shadow of the American Dream, for its detailed chronicling of New York City in the 1970s. At one point, he heads into "a new New York dive restaurant," the vanished Tiffany diner of Sheridan Square.


Tim Faracy, flickr

He describes the clientele: "three no-wave women behind us in the next booth with black short razored hair and gold-black circles around their eyes and cheap plastic black-and-white bulby earrings and sleazo clothes, neat lookin' and they left after flashin' us some lingering stares, over to the other side in a booth were two women on quaaludes nodding out over eggs and toast, chewing with eyes closed for minutes at a time, and the rattle of cars on the street, the crowds drifting by, one girl who was stunned tripped and dropped her radio which shattered into various pieces and got up smiling and walked on."


Shannon Davis, flickr

By the time I got to Tiffany's, the No Wave women were long gone, but the pink Formica had not yet been ripped out. I'd heard about the place and went in search of some kind of Village scene.

In 1995 the New York Times described it as "a dowdy, low-budget gathering place for a colorful cross section of Villagers. For the price of a cup of coffee, playwrights and older New Yorkers bought endless hours in the diner's gaudy pink booths. Gay men and lesbians considered it an all-night embodiment of the Village's tolerant spirit."


Tony Perez, etsy

After a fire and renovation in 1995, Tiffany's lived a little longer. But by 2001, after over 30 years in business, it was gone. A realtor hyped the space by naming its neighbors: "GNC, CVS Pharmacy, Gourmet Garage, Jekyll & Hyde, Citibank, Duplex Cabaret, Federal Express, and New York Sports Club."

Today it's a Bank of America.

14 comments:

James Campbell Taylor said...

Another one I missed. Didn't there used to also be a huge Smiler's Deli/Cafeteria across Seventh Avenue (where what is now Gourmet Garage)? I think I remember seeing it in '99 (plus I remember reading that Blondie used to like to eat there after a show).

Carol Gardens said...

I miss this place. I always used to call it the Disco Diner because they decorated the interior with strings of colored lights that they turned up at night. Definitely attracted a true cross-section of the neighborhood and beyond. They also had an excellent pizza burger. I can taste it now... You could sit in the window and watch the scene go by, which is why it is a particular shame that it closed--few diners have such an excellent location for people watching.

ShatteredMonocle said...

Well at least you can still purchase a nanny cam upstairs.

Tom said...

@James - Here's the URL (I don't know how to do HTML linking) for a picture of that Smilers:

http://somecamerunning.typepad.com/.a/6a00e5523026f58834011570b476b6970b-800wi

Romy Ashby said...

Ah, Tiffany's. I remember some wonderful nights spent there in the company of Marguerite Young--she was the author of a long book called Miss MacIntosh, My Darling, and an even longer one about Eugene Debs. And she would hold forth in one of the booths. She lived on Bleecker Street and she'd go over there every night. I spent one Thanksgiving there with Marguerite and a few other funny people, and all the other tables were full of drag queens and misfits and it was very cozy.

LIBERATION said...

That was a great book. I'll have to reread it.

James Campbell Taylor said...

@Tom: great photo — thanks! The Smiler's Deli in that photograph is today an Andy's Deli. The one I was thinking of was on the opposite side of Seventh Avenue a little further north near West 10th, where the Gourmet Garage is now. Your photo looks like it's from the sixties: maybe Smiler's moved across the street? Or maybe my memory is hazy...

Mark said...

James, no...that location was once a place called Your Father's Moustache. It was torn down and this building was erected, containing the NYSC gym upstairs. There was never a Smiler's here. Smiler's wasn't a cafeteria; it was always a small neighborhood mini-market with essentials. Most, if not all of them are gone.

James Campbell Taylor said...

Hmm, I could've sworn it was there. I can picture the lettering now...

Oh well, it wouldn't be the first cafeteria to have existed solely in my imagination.

A Reader's Life said...

Now you're making me nostalgic about a place I've only seen from the Greyhound and train stations (very eye-opening!)
I'm reading Pete Hamill's book "Downtown; My Manhattan". Also very informative.
Love your blog. . .

AirPilot said...

I believe that the Tiffany Diner was the second place started by a young Greek immigrant named Jimmy. His First place was the the Tiffany Coffee Shoppe on Third Ave. and 21st. st. He took over an old candy store that still had its soda fountain and painted glass signs with prices like 25 cents for a malted. He put a sign below them saying to "Disregard these 30 year old prices." He was really nice and ran a great place and I ate there frequently. He sold it years later and it was never the same. He had said that he planned to return to Greece. I wish him well.

sallie parker said...

Mark and James: There was indeed a Smiler's nearby! As I recall it was just south of Village Cigars on Seventh Avenue South. It was the only place you could buy milk late at night. This was contemporaneous with Your Father's Moustache across the street, circa 1971-1977. YFM was a touristy, sawdust-on-the-floor kind of place where you sat at trestle tables and listened to banjo music. It was one of several founded by Joel Schiavone. See http://bit.ly/wiP0ED

esquared said...

"south of Village Cigars on Seventh Avenue South" aka SoViCiSeAvSo, the new and hot trending neighborhood in NYC. (also, I think my word verification was that too)

Anonymous said...

My dad used to take me there for holiday meals. I remember one where my ice cream dessert was cut in slabs so it looked like turkey. Or maybe the turkey looked like ice cream. Our other go-tos included La Bonbonniere (which I believe is still there) and the diner that preceded the Odeon, as well as Great Jones Diner, Square Diner, Socrates Diner...