I was checking out Randy Garbin’s (Roadsideonline) Roadside Forums as I am wont to do on a daily basis when I noticed either Monday or Tuesday (the days seem to run together) the Forbes Diner of New Haven, CT was being moved to be replaced by a Dunkin Donuts store. For those who don’t know, the Forbes Diner is a classic, top-of-the-line 1957 vintage Fodero diner. With a vestibule, front “diner” section and back “kitchen/restrooms” section in nearly as close to original condition as you could get.
I was debating on putting anything in the Hotline about it when I got an email from Al Hofer on Tuesday night with a link to a WTNH.com website piece on the diner. I thought maybe I should do this when on Wednesday noontime-ish I got another email from Phil Langdon (Phil wrote the book, “Orange Roofs, Golden Arches”) with a story from the New Haven Register about the diners plight.
Although I never ate there (I will always kick myself over that), I did at least photograph it on May 29, 1983, according to my Diner Log. It was a damp and dreary Sunday afternoon as I recall, on a Connecticut roadtrip with Steve Repucci and David Hebb. We saw a lot of diners that day and unfortunately, Forbes Diner was closed that afternoon.
According to the news pieces the diner is being saved by the current owner who hopes to find a new location in or around New Haven to place the diner and operate it again. In the meantime, he is storing the 3 sections of the diner behind his other business, the New Star Diner.
Here is the New Haven Register article along with an intro by Phil Langdon ….
Here’s an article from the Feb. 5 New Haven Register about the Forbes Diner. I only ate at the Forbes once–a lunch in early 1987 with architect Melanie Taylor, who during that meeting pointed out that shopping centers are now being called “Town Centers” and “Town Commons” and other such names and that a few people are starting to create real town centers (as at Mashpee Commons on Cape Cod). While we sat in a booth decorated with boomerang shapes in Formica, she gave me the idea that there was a growing yearning for traditional town centers, which resulted in my writing the March 1988 Atlantic Monthly cover story “A Good Place to Live” and led to my book A Better Place to Live. Hats off to the Forbes, wherever it may be! It had the grease of inspiration.
Forbes Diner on the move, but to where?
By Mark Zaretsky, Register Staff
NEW HAVEN — They just packed up the front half of the sleek, stainless steel Forbes Diner last week, put it on a flatbed truck and took it away.
After 51 years, on and off, as a landmark eggs and coffee stop on Forbes Avenue, the diner is gone.
When they finish doing that with the back half of the Forbes this week to make way for a Dunkin’ Donuts, it will mark the first time in 60 years that there hasn’t been a diner at Forbes Avenue and Stiles Street.
But this is a story without an ending as yet — and there still is a chance for a happy one.
The good news is: The Forbes Diner is still in New Haven.
It’s still owned by its most recent owner, and Helmi Elsayed “Mo” Ali — a pretty resourceful guy, who a decade ago moved Ansonia’s former New State Diner to become the New Star Diner in Fair Haven — still hopes to reopen it. He prefers to do so in New Haven — or if not, someplace close by.
The well-preserved 1957 Fodero diner has gone through changes before. Its original owners, the Ezold family, closed it in 1994, but it reopened in 1998.
Ali, who struggled for years to keep the Forbes going amid high costs and marginal business, finally agreed to sell the property after several years of Dunkin’ Donuts overtures.
He closed the diner last week when the riggers showed up.
The original plan, which the City Plan Commission approved in 2006, called for demolition. But, Ali couldn’t go through with it and convinced the buyer to let him move the diner instead.
“I don’t want to knock it down,” Ali said.
So he moved the front half early Monday, and will move the back half midweek to property he owns near his other diner.
Having made that commitment, he’s nervous and doesn’t mind saying, “I need help — I need a new home right away!”
Ali hopes the city values the Forbes as much as he does and will get involved in trying to help relocate it. If anyone else out there has a good, high-traffic spot on a main drag — preferably in the city — for a beautiful old diner, he can can be reached at the New Star Diner at 562-5582.
The Forbes, which employed more than a dozen people at one point, “is in very good shape — inside and out,” Ali said. “All you need is a piece of property.”
City Deputy Economic Development Director Tony Bialecki, who used to eat at the Forbes Diner as a kid, said he’s aware of the situation. “I may just take a drive by and talk to him. It’s been a while since we talked about it,” Bialecki said.
Bialecki pointed out that City Plan Director Karyn Gilvarg noted the diner’s historic value in City Plan’s 2006 approval of the Dunkin’ Donuts plan.
There are others who recognize the diner’s value. Ali said he turned down an attractive offer from someone who wanted to move it out of state.
“It is a beautiful diner and it is very desirable,” said diner expert Randy Garbin, who runs the RoadsideOnline.com Web site and ate at the Forbes twice.
“This one is the diner that everybody wants when they call up looking for a diner — they want a big, stainless steel diner from the ’50s,” said Garbin, who lives outside Philadelphia.
“It seems a little sad,” said Richard J.S. Gutman, author of “American Diner: Then and Now” and curator of the Culinary Archives & Museum at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. “I’ve eaten there, I’ve liked it.”
Gutman, at the time of the Forbes’ reopening in 1998, called the model used for the Forbes “just about the zenith of diner design. … It sort of just epitomizes the 1950s.”
The man who built the Forbes, Pat Fodero, who ran the Fodero Dining Car Co. of Bloomfield, N.J., said in 1998, “They’ve got a good unit there. All they’ve got to do is serve good food.”
Mark Zaretsky can be reached at email@example.com or 789-5722.
Here is the Link to WTNH’s piece as well …. http://www.wtnh.com/Global/story.asp?S=7826596&nav=menu29_2
Thanks Al and Phil (and Randy too)!