Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Reme Restaurant


Reader Keith Taillon writes in about the recent loss of yet another affordable coffee shop:

"A beloved neighborhood diner in Washington Heights abruptly closed recently, and I don't know why. I visited one week, and walking past a week later, found the space emptied with auction fliers taped to the windows. It remains empty."

photos by Keith Taillon

"The diner was called Reme, and it sat at the northwest corner of 169th and Broadway. It was a classic NYC diner, open for at least 40-50 years, attracting old timers, hospital workers, students, and newcomers (like myself) drawn to the area by low rents and a sense of 'home' you can't find elsewhere in the city anymore. Part of what made Washington Heights home for me was being able to go to Reme, where I knew all of the employees by face if not by name, and where I knew I could get a good hot meal for just a few bucks."

Keith shares a few anecdotes:

"- It was cash-only, and very affordable.
- It attracted a great mix from the neighborhood. Lonely old Dominican men & women sitting alone at the bar, loud multi-generational families spilling across tables in the middle of the room, and doctors & students from NY Presbyterian Hospital all could be found there on a daily basis.
- Sheila was my favorite waitress. She was a short, gruff, and sassy Trinidadian woman who lived in Queens and commuted in almost daily. She was even there during blizzards and immediately after Hurricane Sandy, though god knows how she made it in. She was always ready with her order pad and a 'whattayahavin?' I'll miss her.
- There was an ancient TV above the kitchen prep alcove that was usually tuned to the news or a soap opera, sometimes kids' shows. Next to that was a shelf covered with a menagerie of action figures. I don't know why.
- The breakfast menu, which was used before 11AM, had a long history of the restaurant printed on the back. The details I remember are that it was originally called 'Remel Restaurant' when it opened in the 40s, but that the L fell off at some point. When it was bought by a new owner, he liked the metal lettering, even without the L and decided to just call the place Reme from then on."

He concludes:

"I can't help but think a lot of people in the neighborhood are missing Reme, but Washington Heights lacks the preservationist infrastructure to discuss what's happening or to properly mourn our losses as they pick up speed. Whatever replaces Reme will have to work hard to pry any dollars from my wallet. This is a bitter loss for me."


Unknown said...

Wow this was a great diner. I used to live down the street. Such sad news and now that whole block on 169th is almost vacant. Next to the diner was a very popular newsstand/ toy store that closed a few years ago. Washington Heights is becoming a ghost town as well with many stores and restaurants closing.

James said...

Yes - this was an essential one. I certainly remember Reme, going back to the 80's when I'd visit Columbia Pres for a program I with which I was involved. At that time, Washington Heights still meant unreservedly cheap diner fare. In the last 25 years, that has been severely challenged by reality. Only last month the neighborhood around West 187th and Pinehurst lost Next Door - a restaurant establishment that had been a part of the landscape in various forms since perhaps 1999. It's common-owned sister near Columbia, 107 West, does apparently continue on. In the last few years, Next Door had been raising its prices on food and drink. The formerly good value was slipping. A former employee showed me a group text message he had received from the owner on the eve of closing, thanking everyone on staff and telling them the joint was now closed.

BatCats Family said...

No, this was a shit diner that operated with C ratings for most of the past 5 years. Not a case of rising rents or gentrification. Simple case of another proper diner going Cyso prision food delivery with tons of salt and no taste. I love this site, but not every closing has sinister underpinnings. It was a filth hole with burnt eggs. Sorry has to be said. I'm a born and raised NY'er who's lived in the Heights for almost 10 years now. Went here first year and always kept an eye on it, it simply wasn't that good. More affordable local places that made better food.

Brian said...

My grandparents lived in W.H. for over 50 years. They had a pharmacy. This was like 1915 to 1965. I lived in W.H. 2000-2005. The old apartment bldg where they lived is still there. Anyway, Reme was the kind of place they would have gone to. Change is part of our culture. Our food and how we eat has changed so much.

Rodin said...

I'm from Washington Heights...born and raised. and anything that can be done to preserve what's left I'm in favor of. If not for Rev Ike, the Lowe's 175 would be a supermarket or worse. Even my birthplace Jewish Memorial Hospital doesn't exist.