Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chelsea Gallery Diner

VANISHED

The Chelsea Gallery Diner has closed after 30 years in business on 7th Avenue near 14th Street.


photo: Visual Raconteur's flickr

Scott Stiffler has a eulogy for the place in Chelsea Now, and JVNY reader Tim Kirk sent in the sad news with a quick video he took of the shutter signage.

Quite pointedly, the sign reads: "Due to our Madison Ave. lease and a dying customer base we have been forced to close our doors after 30 yrs at this location. We have watched our quaint neighborhood turn into the very ‘upscale Chelsea’ of today’s Manhattan. So let us remember a time when this diner was a meeting place for so many strange, unusual & different people to say the least. All were welcomed at a time when St. Vincent’s stood tall, the Halloween Parade was small and our diner at any given time could turn into a fun free for all."



Writes Tim, "This was the kind of place where the management would feed locally known homeless people fresh food right outside the door. Can you imagine ANY joint in Chelsea being that compassionate to those less fortunate these days?"

Always accommodating to large groups, the compassionate Chelsea Gallery was also a safe haven for, as the sign says, the "unusual" people. On any given night, you might walk in to find the back tables full of trekkers from the New York City Star Trek meet-up, gay bears and their admirers getting together, transgender folks mixing and mingling after a support group, or sober gays and lesbians coming in for fellowship after their 12-step meetings. Many crowds came from the nearby LGBT Center--the Chelsea Gallery was a regular after-meeting haunt.


Adam Kuban's flickr

It was also not a place for the hyper-young and hip. Chelsea Gallery was the diner of choice for the NYC Individualists' Single 40 Plus social club (for the "not societally gorgeous, not religious, not slim, you're into politics, psychology, not perfect, too intellectual, left wing, chicken wing!!not a swinging single, not a drinker, not a smoker, not rich, not a Wall St. or Madison Ave. groupie, not a Happy Hour junkie, don't wear make up, or high heels, or ties, maybe you have beards, tatoos, long hair, maybe you are YOU!!").

These motley crowds could be off-putting to some newcomers to the city.

Noted one blogger who tried the Chelsea Gallery: "maybe there’s some kind of early bird special because all the old people in nyc are sitting right in my face. There are a sprinkle of young, my age, gay and lesbian couples here and there, but majority of them are old. They’re eating [alone], or they came with their girlfriends and families to chat. Not that I have a problem with that, it’s just a new experience that’s all. I thought I was at the old folk’s home or something. Let me tell you, this is certainly not a trendy place." [emphases mine]


Adam Kuban's flickr

Of course, if it's not a trendy place, it's not allowed to exist in the new New York. And I keep wondering: Where are all those people going to go now? All the trekkers, gay bears, and transsexuals, the sober queers and the over-40 individualists, not to mention "all the old people in nyc"--where will they go?

Where will any of us go when every single place we feel at home is wiped from the face of the city?

23 comments:

John M said...

Berlin?

JAZ said...

The city should seize this space by eminent domain, and open a center where New Yorkers can be given Tourist Sensitivity Training - how to defer to their every whim, the correct tone to use when apologizing for getting in their way when we are trying to get to work, a handy pocket guide that we can use to direct them to the closest cupcake shop, Starbucks, or site that Carrie Bradshaw called out in a SATC episode.

It's their city now; the least we can do is be as gracious as possible while Bloomy's crew is shoving us out.

Elwood D Pennypacker said...

This is a shame - I had a few good meals at this place, especially when I worked at a local small Independent cinema nearby (that's still going, thank goodness).

Diners are a curious thing for a native New Yorker of the same generation as the immigrant Yuppies and Hipsters. I got sick of them as a rebellious teen to show up my Yiddishe family (yes there are still a few secular Ashkenazi-descent Yiddish-speaking families left). And many diners were so bad as to justify my disgust.

But then I got older and I remembered that a good diner would sling a good burger or grilled cheese or omlette better than many of these clubsteraunts. Maybe more important than that, they are much quieter than these newer places(and diners could be quite loud - I'm talking about Old Folks Sending the Soup Back, people!).

A damned shame.

c.o. moed said...

I can't even write what I wrote because I'm so furious. What gives me hope is that S*$&T turns around. Oh yes it does.

tiny tim said...

I think the answer to your final question is to start making some places your own again.

allen vella said...

f nyc. I'm sick of reading about these places closing. lived here all my life. no like.

maximum bob said...

I checked out ChinaGirl's blog in the link, all I can say is, what a miserable c***.
God help us...

Anonymous said...

It's tragic. Yet another place wiped off the map. But in today's New York Times, lo and behold, there's an article on how you can find "suburban" pleasures in Manhattan. It's becoming Venice x Peoria in T minus nine seconds!

As for people who recommend "Berlin," what about all the people who are working-class and poor and not white and do not want to uproot and move to the capital of Germany, of all places? Even that suggestion--"Berlin?"--speaks volumes!

Goggla said...

I'm really sorry to say I never went to this diner and I wish I did. These places that know you by name or face and treat you like you're home are getting harder and harder to find.

When I first came to this city, I was struck by the familiarity of it - how business people and strangers acted as if we already knew each other. That is what I love(d) about the city and am finding it harder and harder to live here as this kind of humanity is being devalued and swept away.

Alise said...

So sad. I live around the corner and whenever I was late with the rent or otherwise had a favor to ask, I would catch my landlord at the Gallery eating his dinner, because I knew being in the gallery would always put him in a happy mood. He loved the place. It was his home.

Anonymous said...

Amen, JAZ,Amen.

Anonymous said...

I still see a lot of young people at diners. Not all transplants are of the SATC ilk. My fav is my local one, Everest in Chatham Sq. Most of the customers are local families and it's not a shit show like my old favorite, Landmark.

TyN said...

"All the trekkers, gay bears, and transsexuals, the sober queers and the over-40 individualists, not to mention "all the old people in nyc"--where will they go?"

The sober queers go to Good Stuff Diner on 14th since it's by the AA meeting spot!

It's sad to see another diner close, but New Venus in Chelsea still plays host to a variety of folks (knock on wood).

James C. Taylor said...

Woah, this is a shock. I've been in there a few times and just walked by yesterday. However Chelsea remains something of a stronghold for "unfashionable" diners. But if I've learned anything from this blog it's that if you want to do something better do it today...

Marty Wombacher said...

I walked by there last weekend and was shocked to see it shuttered up. I've been going there for years and it was a great place to eat and people watch. Another empty space that I dread seeing what's going to become of it.

Anonymous said...

I'm guilty of eating there once in the 30 years I've lived in Chelsea—it's not close to home, which is partly why, and the lack of funds to dine out is the other reason.

However…

It's sad to see that we're being taken over by the GoogaMooga artisanal mayo and too-cool-for-you foodie crowd. Even though I'm not a huge fan of diners, it's good to know you can eat whatever you like, whenever you like...and usually it's a fairly good meal for a good price.

I wonder what those hipsters will be like when they're over 50, nay, over 70, when their tattoos and piercings make them look like the clowns they are, when they're the "old" people...and no one wants to sit near them because they're old and icky and won't have the money to eat at the hipster joints that will exist here in 20+ years. Just wondering.

Anonymous said...

As a Chelsea resident since 1986, I have seen a gazillion changes. Never expected this one, Gallery seemed such a constant.

please hang on, gascogne!!!!

Uncle Waltie said...

If I had any more tears left, I would shed one right about now. Used to go there almost nightly when I was working on 18th Street.

Pat said...

maximum bob, that blog finechinagirl hasn't been touched since April 2011 so I guess an old witch from Chelsea put a spell on her and turned her into a cupcake, with broken English yet.

Anonymous said...

I had enough and moved to a neighborhood in another borough. Aside from an excessive number of Dunkin' Donuts, it's still like the old days there. Ain't saying where, though!

Alice Wheeler said...

Alice Wheeler
I am very sorry for the loss of this amazing restaurant. I use to frequent a restaurant similar to this one in a town where I live, they were forced to close as well.

Filmatix said...

@ E.D. Pennypacker:

"Clubsteraunts" really nails it; I just might have to steal that.

Anonymous said...

I understand people's frustrations when the old gives way to the new. But I am sorry: this was possibly the worst diner in all of New York! The help was awful, the food worse, which is why anytime I went in there (with my old-lady friend, naturally; that was their customer base) there were maybe four or five booths occupied, max. Yes, it's sad when wonderful old places bite the dust. But this was a long-overdue mercy killing. Its dozen or so regular customers who haven't died yet will just have to turn to cat food, I guess.