New York Magazine

What’ll it be FOR THE NEW YORK DINER?

BLT light on ( the mayo ), 2 EGGS OVER EASY, OR EXTINCTION? WATCHING AND LAMENTING THE MASSIVE DINER DIE-OFF.

THERE’S A STORY that a few of the wistful regulars from my old diner, Joe Jr.’s, which used to occupy a narrow little space in the Village on the southeast corner of Sixth Avenue and 12th Street, still like to tell about the time Louie the waiter died of a heart attack. Like many vanished coffee shops, diners, and luncheonettes around the city, Joe’s was a loose, convivial club for the people who frequented the place. I would see the movie director John Waters at the counter, dressed in his neatly pressed suits, sipping coffee in a fastidious, mannered way. Isaac Mizrahi was a regular during his pre-TV days, and if my addled memory is correct, so was that great chronicler of big-city eccentrics, the New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell, who used to drop by now and then, wearing his gray fedora.

Louie was the indispensable front-of-the-house man at Joe Jr.’s, a formidable maître d’ figure who, like Sirio Maccioni during the heyday of Le Cirque, knew the quirks of all the regulars and assigned everyone to his or her proper place. He knew that I preferred to sit at either end of the counter for my solitary afternoon BLTs (with extra mayo) and that my youngest daughter, Penelope, liked her usual chicken soup (in a bowl, extra crackers) any time of the day or night. He kept order when drunks would stagger in off the street, and he had a knack for calming down the more unconventional Village regulars, like “the Tattoo Lady,” whose face was covered in a pattern of intricate tattoos, and another regular who had a habit, when she was overwhelmed by the cares of the world, of screaming out her normal order—“Eight coffees, light and sweet!”—at the top of her lungs.

When Louie died, many of the regulars at Joe’s were so shaken that they traveled out to the wake to pay their respects. When they arrived at the funeral home in Queens, the restaurant’s staff—short-order cooks, waitresses with their

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