Wednesday, September 19, 2012

University Diner


It Was Her New York and Alex in NYC both shared the upsetting news yesterday that the University Restaurant diner, on University and 12th Street, is closing. Today is their last day in business.

I went by for a quick cup of coffee. This is one of the last--if not the last--diners in the neighborhood. It was my go-to place in that area, and I will miss it.

The last time I went, I sat next to a crotchety, older New York couple. She was counting out her vitamins and he was helping. Sort of. I wrote down everything they said on a Milky Way advertisement in the magazine I was reading. It's the kind of scene you just don't get except in diners like this one. (Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

(this is not the crotchety couple)

Woman: There's something wrong with Sunny. She's eating too much cat food. She doesn't sleep with me anymore.

Man: No, she sleeps with me.

Woman: Does she? Seriously, tell me, where does she sleep? Tell me the truth so I know!

Man: Yeah, she sleeps with me. I'm cheating on you with the cat.

Woman: Oh, be quiet and help me with these vitamins.

Man: You have to take them all, because--

Woman: I told you to help me, not lecture me. Now which one's which?

Man: Don't you remember?

Woman: No, I don't remember!

Man: And they call you a genius.

Woman: ---

Man: Okay, this one's the probiotic. This one's for your skin. This one--

Woman: I don't care what it's for! Just tell me the name!

Man: You're not nice to me. I'm going outside.

The Man leaves and then returns.

Woman: I've got two tickets for the movie tonight, with Daisy, but I don't feel up to it. Can you take them back and get my money?

Man: You should go. She's your daughter.

Woman: She's too much to deal with.

Man: I wish I could go to the movies.

Woman: So go.

Man: I can't! The house is a disaster and I got to clean everything. You go. I'll be home waiting for you with your grapefruit juice, just like you like.

Woman: Oh, be quiet.

Man: You love grapefruit juice.

Woman: I said BE QUIET!

The Woman throws her balled-up napkin at the Man. They get up to leave. The Man turns to me.

Man: [stage whispering] I have no idea why I bother to love this bitch!

More vanished diners:
Joe Jr's
Chelsea Gallery
Rockaway Sunset


Chris Kreussling (Flatbush Gardener) said...

This is me and my husband. Almost.

EV Grieve said...

This is a tough one. I worked nearby some years back, and always enjoyed lunches here. This and the Cedar Tavern.

Anyway, where will couples like the the one you described now go for meals? Seems like the new places along here only cater to people between the ages of 21-24 these days.

Violetsrose said...

This exchange made me quite tearful - it typifies old NY - and is just like me and my husband too

It Was Her New York said...

where the hell will we be able to go to nag our spouses like this? starbucks?

thwany said...

Oh no---how unfortunate.

Sammy said...

Cedar closing was rough. For me Joe Jr.'s closing was absolutely brutal. I adored it there. University too will be missed.

Tris Miller said...

I worked in the area for two years now and I'm very disappointed with how the area's developing. I guess it's to be expected, my co-workers always talk about all the old places that have shut down.

Now we have a Pret and a 7-11. What's going to replace the diner? Another chain coffee shop probably. I'm also worried about the corner of 13th and University, where the Vietnamese place used to be, and 14th and Broadway, where the shoe store used to be. I've started bringing my lunch more and more, it looks like that trend will continue.

everettsville said...

What Grieve says is true. Fewer and fewer places for those who aren't young and beautiful.

Walking by this place always reminded me of my first winter in New York when I had Thanksgiving dinner here with a friend who was also a new arrival and also far from family.

One less place to hear the banter of old New Yorkers and one less trigger of memories of my own 'yute'.

Anonymous said...

"Seems like the new places along here only cater to people between the ages of 21-24 these days."


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. It is one of the stories I suspect will stay with me always.

Marty Wombacher said...

Another one down, this sucks. At least the Waverly lives on.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Terrible news! So sorry to hear this.

esquared™ said...

I was just there this weekend and thought to myself how long they will last since they're in prime location, a corner and across is the Bowlmor/Country Club. And, voila, it is now vanishing.

University Diner is where I go to nag at myself. Can I do that at Starbucks.

Anonymous said...

Dear Vanishing,

Thank the lord. Geez, have you seen the people that go in these diners? I might as well be at the Ft. Wayne Greyhound station. Never once did I see hot chicks in the window so my homies and I walked on by. I mean, who eats tomato soup or reads a newspaper anyways?

~Bryce Allen

Ms. said...

The musical theme of NYC is a funeral march, but whoever this older is and wherever they will go for their next pill count and public grumble, I love them.

Shawn said...

That was my Sunday breakfast spot for years.

Thanks for the memories.


Anonymous said...

I had dinner here on Christmas once, with my mother. I'll never forget it.

Anonymous said...

There are two solid diners on 23rd and 9th, fortunately. Love to walk by and see the diners in the window of Chelsea Square (SE corner), where I had my first meal here 30 years ago when I moved here. My husband I an were sick with the flu on Thanksgiving one year and had dinner at the Moonstruck on the other corner along with plenty of older residents of the neighborhood.

BabyDave said...

Great story, sad situation. (The coffee shop, not the couple.)

onemorefoldedsunset said...

This kind of conversation strikes a chord - I think my grown-up kids hear it all too often when they come back home! It is sad, though, when regular eating places disappear. I dread to think of where I'll go when my remaining local favorites go.
Does anyone know what's going on with the New St. Clair on Atlantic? Was supposed to be in trouble a good while back, but is still open, though I did see a real estate sign above it ...
If anyone's in Sunset Park, I recommend Munchy Coffee Shop on Fifth - plenty of character. And for excellent talk, Luigi's Pizza (22nd & Fifth) & the great 7th Ave Donuts, a faithful holdout on suburban Seventh. You will never be disappointed by the talk or the pizza/donuts at either place.

Anonymous said...

When I moved to the city in 91 I was young and beautiful and successful.

And I loved diners and those old couples.

I moved here with a full appreciation and respect for new yorks history and it's people.

Thats gone with this current generation.

For the first time In 22 years I'm thinking about an exit strategy.

I walk out my door and I hate what I see.

I used to think I could take what I like and leave the rest but there's nothing left for me.

Anonymous said...

The Lyric Diner, another classic, on 22nd and 3rd is brown-papered with an"under renovation" sign. Looks to be the end of an era for that one as well. Sad.

Anonymous said...

The coffee shop didn't pay rent for eight months; bounced a check to the landlord, you can check the
civil court files; they owed the landlord more than $200,000.00 by the time they were forced to leave by the court. Nothing to do with an increase in rent; the "new" owners who are Koreans (?), didn't want to pay the rent! Or any rent at all!

Anonymous said...

Classic conversation- reminds me of growing up in Queens, where you were never far from a good kvetch. The doting husband who complains about it the whole time, the doted on wife who complains too but secretly loves how she's taken care of.

Anonymous said...

The disappearance of diners has more to do with health trends than gentrification. The Good Stuff diner is thriving. I am a diner lover who stopped going to diners for health reasons.

The truth is that they completely failed to adapt to changing food trends and served raw, inedible stuff.

And while I spent many days of my New York beginnings at University and I feel bad for their owners, it should not be mixed up with issues such as the merit of the High Line.
Higher property values have been destructive to businesses for centuries and will continue to be so.

The upscale trend of Union Square was not initiated by Bloomberg, it is a result of it being the physical center of New York, and of high end retailers who moved there 10 years ago using private money.

I love old New York, and hate the Rodeo Drive crowd who invaded our streets, but let's be impartial, and let's be fair.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon 9:25, I came here in my 20s in the early 90s and lived at the diners. I loved them and all the different kinds of people, old and young, rich and poor, that made NY into NY.

I still go to diners. They're one of the places I heard NYers say "it takes all kinds", which was an act of grace to odd artist kids coming here from the judgmental hinterlands. This abbreviated Randian "Cry more" reaction to hypergentrification goes against everything I loved about this city. I think Bloomberg must've hated this city to do these horrible things. And the new 20-somethings never cared in the first place.

I'm sad to say that I've looked too. These semi-pro narcissists will destroy everything without blinking. But I've considered fighting anyway. Economic diversity is diversity too.

Jeremiah Moss said...

high line? what high line?

laura said...

anon: i have never eaten anything raw in a diner (fruit or salade). dont eat raw even in 4/5 star. years ago i would have melon, but i have stopped that across the board. diners/coffee shops make great breakfasts. cooked eggs, toast, etc. also grilled cheese sandwich, baked potato, i have even had sauteed brocolli rabe made in olive oil. what do you mean by "food trends" ?? diners serve good american plain food, for decent prices. theres a reason why they are packed during breakfast& lunch time in business districts.

Anonymous said...

Silver Spurs (9th and broadway) is essentially a diner

Scuba Diva said...

I loved this dialogue, but to be fair I never went to the University Diner, even though I live sorta close by and have business in the area.

I went vegan about 12 years ago, and I've found that places like this serve good ol' American burgers and fries but have no clue that Americans are trying to eat lighter, healthier—and for me, that means no dairy. Not a drop.

I asked at one place if they had soy milk for the coffee, and the guy said, "We have skim milk," thinking I just wanted lower calories.

And if, as one commenter said, the owners are Koreans who believed they didn't have to pay any rent, well: game over.

"The coffee shop didn't pay rent for eight months; bounced a check to the landlord, you can check the civil court files; they owed the landlord more than $200,000.00 by the time they were forced to leave by the court. Nothing to do with an increase in rent; the "new" owners who are Koreans (?), didn't want to pay the rent! Or any rent at all!"

I will gladly support the business that replaces this one if they're local and not part of a chain; I realize that's a tall order for a corner space that may command upwards of 20K a month, but we can dream.

Coogan said...

That diner story with the couple was brilliant.. Any Sedaris or brother David should make this into a play or work the dialogue into one of their hilarious stories...

Real question to all: Who owns the Good Stuff diner on 14th? Does anyone know or could assist me in how to find out? Just curious if they're cool and worth supporting. Only went 2 times in these last few years they've been open, can't seem to like it, maybe just not feeling the vibe because I don't go enough. Need to do some political research and hanging out here would be ideal because it's 24hrs, others can meet there easily from many nearby subway lines and we probably don't need to spend a fortune to stay for a few hours later evening.

Thanks everyone! Especially you Jeremiah. This place is the best. Hugely important.