Monday, July 16, 2007

Grand Luncheonette


Personal journal entry July 28, 1995:
I went into the Grand Luncheonette today for a Coca-Cola. A little hole-in-the-wall of vintage chrome and orange formica, set beneath the shade of a burned-out movie marquee, its few remaining bulbs still burning. I sat on the swivel stool and watched 42nd Street. I watched the flies hum around the ketchup bottles, the man turning hot dogs, the big cans of sauerkraut and chili stacked under the greasy counter. A fan turned and stirred up the dirt. Nothing much happened.

I finished my soda and walked down 42nd, looking at the things in the windows of all the head shops along the Deuce--Magic Shaving Powder, Spanish fly ointment, corn-cob pipes, Rough Rider condoms. Men called out from shadowed doorways, “One-dolla, one-dolla, one-dolla. Live nude girls." I looked in the window of the Martial Arts Shopping Center, at the mechanical Victorinox army knife, folding and unfolding its blades. I looked at all the knives and the brass knuckles and the swords. I looked into a window full of books with titles like: How to Pick Up Girls, How to Create a New Identity, and How to Build Your Own Bazooka.

photo by Andrew Moore

Luncheonette's Grill Turns Off for Good
The New York Times, October 20, 1997

Most of the regulars could be found at the Grand Luncheonette yesterday, parked on the stools or bellied up to the counter.

There was Abdul El-Amin, who started coming regularly 25 years ago for knishes after kung-fu movies. There was Officer Charles Mitchell, who has patrolled Times Square for a decade and often stopped by for a hot dog (95 cents) with sauerkraut (5 cents extra). And there was Pops, a toothless 42d Street regular who could not remember exactly how long he had been eating there.

"Since forever, why don't we leave it at that," said Pops, who left his name at "just Pops."

As he has for 58 years in the neighborhood, Fred Hakim, the owner, wore his stained white fry-cook's jacket and dished out fare as delectable as it was profoundly greasy. He enforced the prohibitions tacked on the mirror behind the counter: "No Loitering. No Spitting. No Water. No Ice." And he held forth as a humble historian of the Deuce, as he still likes to call 42d Street west of Seventh Avenue.

But Mr. Hakim, 69, had a hard time keeping it all from sounding like a valedictory. After more than 25 years in its closet-sized space at 229 West 42d Street, the Grand Luncheonette spent its last day on 42d Street yesterday.

Still from the film Grand Luncheonette: Watch it here.

It is being closed as part of the Times Square redevelopment project, which has shuttered dozens of the neighborhood's older businesses -- many of them sex-oriented -- to make way for sparkling new restaurants, theaters and retail stores.

...As word spread last week that his luncheonette was closing, Mr. Hakim became a celebrity on the television news. Yesterday, as the cameras returned, his wife, Jane, made a final plea to any Times Square landlord not yet wedded to fancy coffee or Disney outlets.

"There must still be a market out there," she said, "for someone who wants a plain old hot dog and a knish."

text Copyright 1997 The New York Times Company


Anonymous said...

Thanks to fhe video link. A treasure...

Anonymous said...

Lenny Waller here, Thank you for the honest & true view of the Grand Luncheonette. I remember it as long as I can remember going to 42nd Street. It was always a Great Hot Dog or quick burger & it was good & affordable.
It has its part in the Duce’s history as the Movies, Peep Shows, Novelty shops, hookers, Pimps, & pushers. It is a part of NY's history sadly gone forever.
Thank you for helping preserve it.
Lenny Waller

Stephanie Weil said...

My mom bought me Jamaican meat patties there as a kid -- and I fell in love with the bug juice machines. When I was a little kid my mom, grandmom and I would go to the Spanish-language movies they would show in some of those old theatres.

Mark A. Hakim said...

That was my father's store - the Grand Luncheonette (a/k/a "Limark Foods" - named after Lisa, my sister, and me). I worked there for years with him and my grandfather too. He and his father, Albert, started these stores years and years ago (even under old Madison Square Garden, a few stores down (named also "Glad Food for my brothers Glenn and Adam), etc.) and my father still tells me stories. He even recently told me the story of how they, his father that is, decided to do the 2 hot dogs for $0.25 (it was 2 for $1.95 at the end in 1997) -he said that made the business take off. I miss the block, and the store, and am thankful for having had the opportunity to share and be a - part of 42nd Street, the customers, the store and experience with my father.

Jeremiah Moss said...

mr. hakim, thanks for writing. i loved the grand luncheonette, and i still miss it.

i would love to hear more about it. please email me at jeremoss(at)yahoo(dot)(com)

Travel12343 said...

Does anyone remember Sandor Maraczi, working also at Grand Luncheon along with Mr. Hakim ?

Anonymous said...

Found this article featuring Sandor Maraczi as an eyewitness:,5727526

hope that helps

sean edwards said...

i had my first hamburger in new york here it was 1988 and i was 18 mustoff cost like 1$ for two hamburgers it was so great!!

Mark A. Hakim said...

Hello everyone. On a very sad note, my father, Fred Hakim, who was the proprietor of the store for decades, is terminally ill with cancer. He is in hospice and the doctors say it is likely hours or a day or so. He suffers from aggressive cancer and is no longer conscious. He loved the store, 42nd street and, most of all, the people who patronized it. This video is timeless and, to our family, priceless. It captures him, times square and the store perfectly.

If any of you happen to have any additional pictures or videos that you don’t mind sharing, we’d be very appreciative.

Again, thank you.


Ron Young said...

Was that the place where Joe Buck ran into Ratso for the second time in the movie Midnight Cowboy (in the book, it was a Nedick's at Sixth and 8th; I believe where the Gray's Papaya now stands)? When Ratso at first smiles in recognition but then his expression suddenly changes when he realizes Joe is probably not feeling equally kindly.

P.S. Sorry about your father, Mark.

sean edwards said...

does anyone have any good qaulity photos of the grand Grand Luncheonette from the 80's?...i will pay
it was the first place i ate in nyc when i arrived in 88...2 patties and a fountain soda $1.75