Notes from the Hotline, 2-11-2012

Goodbye to Miss Albany


The Miss Albany Diner, April 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

On November 14th, 2009 I posted about the Miss Albany Diner of Albany, NY was for sale and it was  just a little over 15 months ago when I wrote about the passing of old friend Cliff Brown, the owner of the Miss Albany Diner, (see this post…… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/in-memoriam-cliff-brown-owner-of-miss-albany-diner/) .

Last week (Feb. 3rd) on the Miss Albany’s Facebook page it was announced that Cliff’s wife Jane and son Bill had finalized the sale of the diner to the owners Wolff ‘s Biergarten (the business next door to the diner).

Here is what was written on their Facebook page…..
On Wednesday, February 1st, 2012, the Miss Albany Diner was sold to the owners of Wolff ‘s Biergarten. The final day of business as the Miss Albany Diner will be Friday, February 10. The Brown family would like to thank all the employees over the years who have helped make the Miss Albany Diner a success, especially Kim, Gina, Mark and Stephen. They are an integral part of …the Miss Albany whose dedication and hard work made the effort of running the diner so much easier. We are very grateful that they have chosen to stay with us for so long. May they all find great success in whatever they choose to do.
Over the past 23 years we have greatly enjoyed the opportunity of meeting so many people from all walks of life and all around the world. Making so many new friends and acquaintances has been the best part of owning the Miss Albany Diner.

On Thursday, the New York Times did a front page article on this iconic diner’s closing…….

Throwback in Albany Will Serve Last Meal

By John Eligon
ALBANY — The Mad Irish Toast sold out in three hours. Akum Norder was fortunate enough to get the last plate of it on Wednesday: French toast made with Texas-style bread, pecan cream filling and Irish whiskey sauce. After she had finished, she scraped the residue off the dish with her finger and licked it, mourning her farewell to the Miss Albany Diner.

The Miss Albany, a streamlined metal diner fabricated to look like a railroad car, has been a fixture of north Albany since Herbert H. Lehman was governor, but it is closing on Friday.

“It’s an incredible loss,” Ms. Norder, 39, said while staring at the remains of her meal. “There’s nothing like this.”

For the last several days, since the owner unexpectedly announced last week that it was closing, the line for a seat spilled onto the sidewalk, in front of its custard-and-raspberry-colored exterior. The patrons wore suits, jeans, hoodies and work boots. They crammed into the cherry wood booths, careful not to burn their legs on the radiator below, or onto chrome counter stools, admiring the arched ceiling, the porcelain-coated steel walls, the hand-laid floor and wall tiles, and the punchy signs (“The benches are to sit on. The floor is for feet.”).

“Where else can you go back in time like this?” Frank Woods asked, as he waited for a table.

In general, restaurants in downtown Albany cater to lobbyists with big checkbooks or state workers on their lunch breaks, but the Miss Albany Diner is a throwback, a place known as much for its quirks — the waiters used to serve Sunday brunch in tuxedos — as for its creative menu and homey feel. And the restaurant is on the National Register of Historic Places, cited as “a distinctive example of mid-20th-century American roadside architecture.”

“It’s been an anchor in that area for many, many, many years,” said Mayor Gerald D. Jennings of Albany, who has frequented the diner since he was a child.

Miss Albany’s owner, Jane Brown, 77, relishes stories about the early days of the diner, when the first owner, Lil McCauliff, was said to have dragged misbehaving customers out by the collars. But Ms. Brown herself is a character. She has done voice-overs for commercials, acted in independent movies and said she once stopped a fight between patrons with a stern stare and two words: “Sit down.”

Ms. Brown said she and her husband, Clifford, had been trying to sell the diner for several years because they were getting old and wanted to retire. Then, two years ago, Mr. Brown died.

Ms. Brown finally found a buyer in Matthew Baumgartner, a prominent local restaurateur who owns a neighboring beer garden. Mr. Baumgartner said he and his business partners would retain the structure but would probably open a restaurant inside. The diner’s days, it appears, are over.

The lot Miss Albany occupies, about a mile and a half from the Capitol, was the site of a lunch cart that opened in 1929, serving workers in what was a commercial and industrial area. The railroad-car-style diner was erected in 1941 and named Lil’s Diner, after Ms. McCauliff. In the mid-1980s, it was restored for use in “Ironweed,” a film starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep that was based on the novel by William Kennedy; the filmmakers called it the Miss Albany Diner, taking the name from a onetime chain of local diners.

The Browns bought the diner in 1988; Mr. Brown was responsible for much of the food and décor.

A pegboard on one wall lists how far away various cities are, from Troy (8 minutes) to Tokyo (15 hours), because Mr. Brown saw Albany as a central meeting point. And then there are the three rectangular pieces of Styrofoam, each with a slightly different hue, hanging from the ceiling; Mr. Brown wanted patrons to point to one of the three to indicate the degree of doneness they wanted for their French fries.

The Mad Eggs are a version of eggs Benedict, topped with a curry sauce instead of hollandaise, because Mr. Brown had high cholesterol. And Cliff’s Ugly Eggs were born on the day Mr. Brown asked the cook to whip him up eggs with anchovies and mushrooms; when the dish arrived, the man next to him said it looked ugly.

The diner’s relatively remote location inspired the Browns’ son, Bill, a chef, when he created the menu.

“I kind of figured since nobody really knew about the diner at the time, they weren’t coming down here for bacon and eggs,” he said. “So I thought this gave us license to do anything we could think up.”

Bill Brown recalled seeing Stan Lundine, lieutenant governor during the administration of Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, sitting on a stool surrounded by an art student, a janitor, the president of a local company and a truck driver.

“They all sat there trading jokes,” he said. “It didn’t matter who anybody was, as long as you had a good joke to tell. That’s really the spirit of the diner, to sit and share, take a break from life.”
To all of our customers over the years we would like to say that it was a pleasure meeting you and Thank You for your support.
Finally, we wish the new owners every success. May the diner bring them as much joy and laughter as it did our family.

From what I have read, the Brown family will retain the “Miss Albany” name and their trademark recipes. It is rumored that they might have a Miss Albany cookbook planned for the future that will include all their signature dishes. It has also been mentioned that the building will not reopen as a diner but as a possible late night eatery that will serve the many nightspot type businesses in the area. Hopefully the building itself will not be altered as it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Brown’s were always congenial and gracious hosts making regular customers (and occasional customers like me, for instance) always feel welcome. I want to wish a happy retirement to Jane Brown and best wishes to Bill Brown on whatever endeavors he embarks on in the future.

More news on Somerville’s Rosebud Diner


postcard view of Rosebud Diner, photo by Larry Cultrera

The other day Randy Garbin of Roadsideonline posted a link to Livejournal.com blurb on who is negotiating to buy the Rosebud Diner.
http://davis-square.livejournal.com/2834458.html

In the blurb by Ron Newman it stated…..

Tasty Burger to replace Rosebud?

Brandon Wilson from the Somerville Historic Preservation Commission told me that Tasty Burger is negotiating to buy both the Rosebud Diner and the Bar and Grille behind it. They plan to combine the two into a single restaurant.The Historic Preservation folks are involved because Somerville has designated the diner as a single-building historic district. This means the city has to approve alterations to the façade — such as painting out the name Rosebud on the diner, or removing the neon Rosebud sign on top.

If the deal goes through, the city will have to somehow balance its interest in historic preservation against the new business’s right to put its own name on the building.

 
 According to an article written by Leah Mennies posted on 12/7/2011 at bostonmagazine.com…… David DuBois, owner of Tasty Burger, Citizen Public House and The Franklin restaurants, was planning on expanding his Tasty Burger concept to at least two new locations and Davis Square was one of the locations.
 
The Rosebud Diner is not only a single building historic district in the City of Somerville, it is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Multiple Property Submission (MPS) by the Massachusetts Historical Commission. Maybe there will be enough opposition from the historical interests to change Mr. DuBois’s mind in pursuing this.
 
I spoke with Bill Nichols whose family owns the diner and he informed me that he feels that the sale of the diner might not go through. I hope this is the case!

Providence, Rhode Island Diner set to make comeback

I received this email announcement about Poirier’s Diner from Richard Gutman yesterday. Poirier’s Diner, which has been in storage for a number of years is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


Poirier’s Diner, operating as the Sandwich Factory in the early 1980’s
Photo by Larry Cultrera

Subject: Immediate Release – Historic Diner Being Moved on Tuesday, December 13th – Immediate Release

The historic Poirier’s Diner (a 1947 Kullman, the second Diner in Rhode Island to be individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places) is on the move!
For more than 50 years, and under many different names, such as “Armand’s, Krystal’s, the Top Hat, Arnold’s and most recently, the El Faro, the Diner served the working men and women of Olneyville at its location on Atwells Avenue at Eagle Square. Saved from the wrecking ball when Eagle Square was mostly demolished, on this coming Tuesday the 13th, the Diner will be placed on a truck and rolled down the block to its new home at 1380 Westminster Street on Providence’s historic West Side.

Developer Jon Özbek has begun a full scale renovation of the diner with the help of BankRI, General Contractor Stack Design / Build of Providence, the RI Historic Preservation & Heritage Commission, the Providence Revolving Fund, and MODA, LLC. This project represents a significant investment in the City’s burgeoning West Side business community, while it will also create new jobs.
This restaurant will be the fourth collaboration between Jon Özbek and Michael Sears, who together have brought Loie Fuller’s, The Avery, and Ama’s to the West Side of Providence.  The Diner will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7 days a week. And it will feature  an updated version of classic American Diner fare, along with a full bar and outdoor patio seating.  It is expected to open in the Spring / Summer of 2012.
 
Stay tuned for details.
Jon Özbek, Manager
Kismetro, LLC
Crescent Partners LLC
1455 Westminster Street, LLC
18-20 Luongo Memorial Square LLC
Cerberus, LLC
401.369.1820

With the inclusion of RI’s Liberty Elm Diner, it’s time to update the List of diners in the National Register of Historic Places


Liberty Elm Diner, AKA Central Diner of Providence, RI was just
listed in the National Register of Historic Places

I cannot believe it has been almost 2 years since I posted a list of Diners that were in the National Register of Historic Places! In fact that post was March 5, 2008. When I posted it, it seems I missed at least 1 diner that was in the Register (I forgot that it had been added). Since then a couple of more diners have also been added, so I want to update that list.

This search brought up 39 listings either as individual listings or as part of multiple property submissions. So I want to clarify at least for now, up to today what diners are in the Register. I have not listed them in order of the date of listing but here goes…..

Connecticut
Skee’s Diner
 
589 Main St.  Torrington
Listed Sept. 6, 2002 

Pennsylvania
Park Dinor
 
4019 Main St.  Erie
Listed Mar. 18, 2004

Utah
O’Mahony Dining Car No. 1107
(operating as the Road Island Diner)
 
981 W. Weber canyon Rd.  Oakley
Listed Aug. 21, 2009

Virginia
29 Diner 
10536 Lee Hwy.  Fairfax
Listed- Oct. 29, 1992   
Bill’s Diner 
1 Depot St.  Chatham
Listed Dec. 16, 1996  (Diners of Virginia MPS) 
Burnett’s Diner 
19 S. Main St.  Chatham
Listed Dec. 16, 1996   (Diners of Virginia MPS)
 

Minnesota
Mickey’s Diner
 
36 W. 9th St.  St. Paul
Listed Feb. 24, 1983

Massachusetts
Agawam Diner
166 Newburyport Turnpike  Rowley
Listed Sept. 22, 1999 (Diners of Mass. MPS)
Jack’s Diner
(operating as Lanna Tai Diner)

901 Main St.  Woburn
Listed Nov. 22, 2000 (Diners of Mass. MPS)
Al Mac’s Diner 
135 President Ave.  Fall River
Listed Dec. 20, 1999 (Diners of Mass. MPS)
The Rosebud  (Rosebud Diner)
381 Summer St.   Somerville
Listed Sept. 22, 1999 (Diners of Mass. MPS)
Corner Lunch 
133 Lamartine St., Worcester
Listed, Nov. 15, 2000  (Diners of Mass. MPS)
Miss Worcester Diner 
302 Southbridge St.  Worcester
Listed Nov. 21, 2003 (Diners of Mass. MPS)
Boulevard Diner
155 Shrewsbury St.  Worcester
Listed Nov. 22, 2000 (Diners of Mass. MPS)
Chadwick Square Diner
95 rear Prescott St.  Worcester
Listed Nov. 26, 2003 (Diners of Mass. MPS)
Ann’s Diner
(operating as Pat’s Diner)
11 Bridge Rd. (US 1)  Salisbury
Listed Dec. 10, 2003 (Diners of Mass. MPS)
Miss Toy Town Diner
(operating as the Blue Moon Diner)
102 Main St.  Gardner
Listed Dec. 4, 2003 (Diners of Mass. MPS)
Capitol Diner
431 Union St.  Lynn
Listed Sept. 22, 1999 (Diners of Mass. MPS)
Shawmut Diner
943 Shawmut Ave.  New Bedford
Listed Nov. 28, 2003 (Diners of Mass. MPS)
Salem Diner
70 1/2 Loring Ave.  Salem
Listed Sept. 22, 1999 (Diners of Mass. MPS)
New Bay Diner
(Operating as the Rte. 66 Diner)
950 Bay St.  Springfield
Listed Dec. 4, 2003 (Diners of Mass.MPS)
Al’s Diner
14 Yelle St.  Chicopee
Listed Dec. 14, 2000 (Diners of Mass. MPS)
Miss Florence Diner 
99 Main St.  Northampton
Listed Sept. 22, 1999 (Diners of Mass. MPS)
Casey’s Diner
36 South Ave.  Natick
Listed Sept. 22,1999 (Diners of Mass. MPS)
Whit’s Diner
(operating as Lloyd’s Diner)
184A Fountain St.  Framingham
Listed Dec. 4, 2003 (Diners of Mass. MPS)
Wilson’s Diner
507 Main St.  Waltham
Listed Sept. 22, 1999 (Diners of Mass. MPS)
Town Diner
627 Mount Auburn St.  Watertown
Listed Sept. 22, 1999 (Diners of Mass. MPS)
Ted’s Diner  (Now demolished)
67 Main St.  Milford
Listed Nov. 29, 2000 (Diners of Mass. MPS)
Monarch Diner
(operating as Four Sisters Owl Diner)
246 Appleton St.  Lowell
Listed Nov. 28, 2003 (Diners of Mass. MPS)

New York
Halfway Diner
(operating as the Village Diner)
39 N. Broadway  Red Hook
Listed Jan. 7, 1988
Munson Diner 
Lake St. (NY 55)  Liberty
Listed April 12, 2006
Lil’s Diner (Miss Albany Diner)
893 Broadway  Albany
Listed Nov. 6, 2000

North Carolina
Sam’s Diner
2008 S. Virginia Dare Trail  Kill Devil Hills
Listed Jan. 27, 1999

Ohio
Silk City Diner #4655
(operating as Kim’s Classic Diner)
303 Washington St.  Sabina
Listed Aug. 10, 2005 

Vermont
Miss Bellows Falls Diner
90 Rockingham St.  Bellows Falls
Listed Feb. 15, 1983 

Rhode Island
Modern Diner
364 East Ave.  Pawtucket
Listed Oct. 19, 1978
Poirier’s Diner
1467 Westminster St.  Providence
Listed July 17, 2003
Central Diner
(operating as the Liberty Elm Diner)
777 Elmwood Ave.  Providence
Listed Jan. 13, 2010

Colorado
Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner
9495 W. Colfax Ave.  Lakewood
Listed July 2, 1997    

There seems to be some confusion, either by diner owners or other interested people about which diners are actually listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I will site three examples of claims in this matter.

1. The last 2 operators of Worcester Lunch Car #690, currently operating as the Lunch Box Diner 0f Malden, Mass. have told me that the owner of the property (as well as the diner) imparted to them that their diner is in the Register. I did some investigating and figured out that it was in fact included in the research for the Multiple Listing Submission survey (along with a selected group of diners in Massachusetts) that represent different styles of diners but up to now it still has not been placed in the Register.

2. I have read for years that Collins’ Diner in Caanan, CT claims to be listed in the Register. In fact, they are only part of an Historic District that is listed in the Register (not individually listed).

3. I recently saw that Brian O’Rourke of O’Rourke’s Diner has been quoted that his diner is also in the Register, (it’s not).

Take note that one of the diners, (Ted’s Diner) is actually still in the Multiple Listing Submission for Massachusetts even though it was demolished shortly after being placed on the Register. Also, there was one other diner that made it to the Register years ago, the Clarksville Diner formerly of Decorah, Iowa (by way of Clarksville, NJ). This diner was removed from the Register after it was sold and subsequently moved to France.

Also, I thought there were more diners from Virginia included in the National Register, but a search of their database only brings up the three I have listed above. The Diners of Virginia MPS survey included virtually all the diners in the state but to the best of my knowledge, only those three made it to the Register. If someone knows anything more concrete on this, I would be happy to ammend this list!

Winchester, VA’s Triangle Diner named State Landmark


early postcard view of the Triangle Diner from my collection

The currently closed Triangle Diner of Winchester, VA, a 1948 vintage Jerry O’Mahony diner has been named to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Landmark List according to the following Associated Press article with Information from: The Winchester Star, http://www.winchesterstar.com…….

Historic Winchester diner on Va. landmarks list

WINCHESTER, Va. – The 61-year-old Triangle Diner in Winchester has been placed on the Virginia Landmarks Register. The diner also has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. It’s one of 10 prefabricated stainless-steel diners in Virginia and has stood in Winchester since 1948.

The Triangle Diner is owned by Dulles-based Medallion 7 Financial. Managing director Michael Lessin says the diner is one of the few remaining examples of that type of architecture. The diner is closed but Lessin says the company plans to restore it and reopen it in the spring or summer. Lessin says the company plans to invest about $1 million in the restoration.


slightly later postcard view of the Triangle Diner from my collection

I first knew about the Triangle Diner with one of the earliest inclusions to my diner postcard collection, the one pictured above (full color real photo card). Later, October 10, 1986 to be exact, Steve Repucci and myself were following U.S. Rte. 11 from Harrisburg, PA to Knoxville, TN and we stopped to have lunch at the Triangle Diner. It is said that legendary Country-Western singer Patsy Cline worked here before rising to stardom. Below are my 3 photos shot that day in 1986.


Triangle Diner photo copyright 1986 by Larry Cultrera


Triangle Diner photo copyright 1986 by Larry Cultrera


Triangle Diner photo copyright 1986 by Larry Cultrera

Here’s hoping the 1million dollar restoration the article mentions includes removing that roof that connects the diner to the rear kitchen addition so the diner will be more visible! If the nomination to the National Register of Historic Places goes through, it will join 3 other diners from Virginia already there, namely the 29 Diner of Fairfax, Bill’s Diner of Chatham and Burnett’s Diner of Chatham.