New York’s iconic diner signs

The menus: pages and pages long. The food: reliable and cheap but rarely great. The signs: cool and iconic, with a 1960s space-age kind of typeface.

And they typically spell “seafood” as two words, as the Washington Square diner sign states on Sixth Avenue and West Fourth, above.

The Washington Square also bills itself as a “Coffee Shop.” Very 1960s folk scene.

The Chelsea Square diner sign, on Ninth Avenue and 23rd Street, also has the sea food and chops thing going.

I’d say the Capitol Restaurant, on Upper Broadway in Inwood, qualifies as a diner because of the faux stone exterior.

Joe Jr’s is no longer at Sixth Avenue and 12th Street. It closed last July after 45 years and probably a million cheeseburger deluxes served.

EV Grieve has a post up today about the ghostly space Joe Jr left behind. I wonder where the sign went?

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6 Responses to “New York’s iconic diner signs”

  1. Stephanie Says:

    A 1960s folk music kind of place would have been a coffeehouse. “Coffee shop” is a scaled-down diner; the old version of Chock Full o’ Nuts is a good example of a coffee shop.

  2. Big Al Says:

    Manhattan “diners” were almost all called “coffee shops” until relatively recently. Unless, of course, they were indeed actual diners like the Cheyenne, the Market, Munson’s, etc. That is to say, free-standing prefabricated restaurants based on the design of railroad dining cars. Otherwise, coffee shops they were, until the advent of Starbucks, etc. made the appellation too confusing. You will still sometimes hear Manhattanite old-timers talk about “going down to the coffee shop.”

  3. Kane Gruber Says:

    Those aren’t “space age” or “1960s” typefaces — those are closer to Art Deco/1930s typefaces.

  4. Rachel Says:

    As far as I know (my family has lived in Brooklyn since the 1880s), a “diner” is a freestanding restaurant, at one time they were frequently constructed of old dining cars from trains, and even those that weren’t bear a resemblance to the old dining cars. A “luncheonette” is not freestanding but they both serve the same kind of food. However I still refer to my local luncheonette (Waverly Restaurant) as “the diner” – I guess because I grew up on Long Island where they are freestanding roadside restaurants. I haven’t heard anyone call these types of restaurants “coffee shops” as that’s how people generally refer to places that sell coffee, pastries, or small items rather than full-blown meals. But I’m sure this varies from person to person and through different generations, just happens that my family refers to the “diner” or “luncheonette.”

  5. Dean Mellis Says:

    I just found out my maternal grandfather owned the Capital Restaurant in the early 20th century. I will find out more from my aunt soon. We’re planning a family pilgrimage.

  6. Caro Says:

    The Chelsea Square was a lifesaver to a college student when you needed a cheeseburger and shake in the middle of the night. They delivered back then, too! I used to get a kick out of the c.1960 place mats they had under glass on the tables that had the mixes for the cocktails they served: Old Fashioned, Grasshopper, Pink Lady and the like.

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