My Childhood Diner is Gone

by Barrett

Nothing is forever. Especially not restaurants. Last week, I lost the diner I grew up with. Here’s my homage to the end of this 91-year-old institution.

For my entire life, the Green Kitchen was the local diner down the street from where I grew up in New York City. It was a fixture on the corner of 77th and First Avenue in Manhattan. The decades passed, and it went through ownership changes. But it always remained.

I remember it when I was a young child, and my parents took me out for dinner there. That was always so much fun. And until last month, I would order take-out from the Green Kitchen to have lunch at home with my 89-year-old father.

Even during the years when the upstart 3-Star Diner across the street competed for customers (and yes, we ate there often), the Green Kitchen’s sign always glowed strong.

Then, right before the pandemic, the 3-Star Diner closed. (Talk about timing.) But the Green Kitchen stuck it out, and eventually reopened. There was nothing stopping it. Year after year. Decades meant nothing.

My Final Visit to the Green Kitchen
Last week, I called and ordered lunch for take-out when I was visiting my father. I went downstairs and around the corner. I walked up and pulled the diner’s door like I must have done hundreds of times. It didn’t open.

I looked up and read the sign on the door stating that the Green Kitchen had closed forever.

What?! It took a moment to register. I felt like I had slipped into an alternate universe. I had just called and ordered the sandwiches. I know I had spoken to someone! (Was he a ghost?)

Then, reality snapped back into place. I remembered that the Green Kitchen had a sister location on 84th and 2nd Avenue. My call had obviously been routed there.

So, I schlepped over to pick up our lunch, and as I walked the extra distance, I pondered this shakeup in my world order.

It’s not like restaurants don’t close all the time. But this place had been around my entire life. And the 84th Street location wasn’t going to be close enough to really replace the loss.

Sharing the News with My Father
When I finally got back to my father’s apartment, I told him the bad news. I was a bit worried how he would take it. It’s been a constant for him as well.

But he brushed it off like I was giving him a mediocre weather report.

My dad has always been about appearances. So perhaps he wasn’t revealing his true feelings. Or maybe it just hadn’t sunk in yet. And just perhaps, he’d gone through enough shake-ups in his life that this one really wasn’t that significant. (If so, it’s nice to see that my father can still teach me a thing or two.)

The good news is New York City is filled with restaurants and diners. So I think it’s just a matter of choosing a new one. I’ll add it to my to-do list.

Thanks for the Memories
Yes, I’m feeling nostalgic. Another fixture from my childhood is gone. I know it’s just a place. But it held a lot of happy memories.

Thank you, Green Kitchen.

Now, it’s time to move on.