On Saturday my friends and I walked to what is now my very favorite diner in the city, the GoodFellas Diner. I don't make that distinction lightly, and there are still a lot of diners on my to-do list, but it was nearly perfect. The diner wasn't named GoodFellas when the movie filmed scenes there (it's also called the Clinton Diner), but now it's pretty obvious they've decided to align themselves fully with their namesake film. Despite none of us having seen the movie, we graciously accepted when we were greeted upon entry and asked if we wanted to sit at the "Robert DeNiro table."
The outside of the diner looks like it came from the same makers of the wonderful Market Diner—which is now (quite depressingly) completely demolished. The zig-zag shaped roof is nearly identical to the Market's, although the GoodFellas Diner is quite large with a front room, main diner area, counter and a back bar room.
We arrived at the diner at about 1pm, and it was nearly empty. By the time we had finished our meals we were the only people in the diner, in addition to our waitress and two cooks. I was both thrilled and saddened to have the entire place to ourselves. We had free reign to take photos and explore, which I love, but also I worry about the longevity of places like this—diners are dropping like flies and I want them to not only survive, but to thrive.
Not everything in the diner feels 100% authentic, but the overall effect is still dazzling. The red and silver glitter vinyl booths, stools, chairs and amber-colored lamps are beautiful, but my favorite is the counter with its scalloped edge and basket weave printed top. It's also one of the longest diner counters I've seen, sitting at least 15 people.
The signs inside of the diner are really exquisite, advertising wonderful-sounding menu items such as Beefburger Steak, Fried Filet of Sole, Romanian Steak, London Broil, Beef Goulash, American Fries and Liver with Onions. I love the proclamations "Our Pies Are So Good," "The Best 1/2 Lb Burger in Town" and even the simple and to-the-point "We Serve Grits."
Our hostess/waitress/(probably) owner was so incredible—and straight out of Central Casting. She was generous with the coffee refills, let us linger as long as we liked and was eager to show us around. We didn't have the heart to tell her that none of us had seen the movie, and it seemed easier to pretend rather than to explain that we all just really love diners.
The recent loss of the Market Diner (and seeing a huge hole in the ground where it used to be) really hit me hard. I've lived in New York long enough to begin to see places I love and frequent disappear—and be replaced by luxury condos or something equally soulless. It's sad and unfair but also just a reality of life, especially here where change is a constant and money talks. I can only hope that for every diner I lose, I find another special gem like the GoodFellas Diner to help soften the blow.