“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
It’s been forty-five years since Joni Mitchell first sang that fateful line on her hit track Big Yellow Taxi, but her words continue to ring out to this day. That line has been repeated, and repeated, and repeated over the years but for as straightforward as her sentiment may be, we’re still struggling to grasp the song’s message. This is especially true here in New York, where more and more so-called institutions of the city seem to be disappearing by the day. And no industry seems to be both more at risk, and more revered than restaurants.
At this point, it seems as if any restaurant that’s been around for more than five years, doesn’t serve some blogger approved, Instagram-ready menu of avant garde delicacies, and/or hasn’t found their niche food fad yet, is endanger of shuttering at a moments notice. And in turn, each “we’re closing” announcement is met by a chorus of complaints, and groans, and claims that New York is over. Inevitably though a week passes, and we all forget about it. We bounce back to whatever “hot new restaurant” is peaking that week, or to our favorite dollar slice spot, depending on our particular palette preferences. And honestly, when was the last time any of us ate at Soup Burg, or Cafe Edison, or El Greco or Odessa?
Often we only patronize these places once their fate has already been sealed, in a last ditch effort to say “yup, I was there.” But for the proprietors of these beloved, yet under frequented establishments, that is simply not enough. Starting today, I’d like to propose a different approach. Instead of waiting around for the death rattle of yet another classic New York establishment, why don’t we all actually make an effort to keep these businesses afloat. Let’s start with diners. Once a staple of this fast-paced city, New York’s greasy spoon numbers are dwindling at an alarming rate. Diner food is rarely exceptional, but it’s never going to let you down. There’s an innate comfort that comes from eating no-frills food in a place that hasn’t been renovated since well before you were born.
So, get out there and order some corned beef stacked on rye, or a bowl of Chicken Noodle so packed with pasta it’ll make the broth seem like a mere afterthought, or maybe even a hamburger that you don’t have to wait two hours for. I don’t care what you order, just do your part, and help to keep those griddles hot, those surly waiters employed, and those spoons as greasy as ever.