New York City restaurants come and go, and rarely survive the ever-changing landscape of this city in the long run. Diners, however, seem to be an exception to this rule.
They are the institutions that stubbornly feed comfort food to generation after generation despite the changing tastes and trends in food. Feeding timeless meals, they manage to stand against the time themselves.
Our beloved borough of Queens is a proud home to several diners beloved by the patrons for decades and thanks to their history they present a unique opportunity to take a break from the rush and bustle of the city and take refuge in nostalgia of their classic interiors and never-changing menu items.
In conjunction with The Queens Courier’s special section focused on diners (the paper will be available tomorrow) we present five of best old-school diners in Queens.
1. Goodfellas Diner: The big screen diner
56-26 Maspeth Ave., Maspeth
No matter what you call it, this Maspeth diner is just as big a star as the movies that have been filmed inside it over the years.
Nat’s Diner — formerly known as Clinton Diner — is lovingly referred to as Goodfellas Diner for its inclusion in the famous diner scene in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 hit mob film “Goodfellas.” Since that scene, film and television producers have flocked to the diner to shoot scenes in its 1960s-esque atmosphere.
Goodfellas Diner has been featured in more than 50 scenes in such films as “Brooklyn Rules” in 2007, “You Don’t Know Jack” in 2010, and a remake of the 1979 film “Going in Style,” which stared Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin.
Television shows such as “Person of Interest,” “Bored to Death,” “Blue Bloods” and CBS’s “The Good Wife” have all been shot in the famous diner.
Located right in the industrial heart of Maspeth, Goodfellas Diner is one of the last true American truck stops and holds on to that history. The place, which opened in 1935, still looks the same as it did after renovations in the 1960s, which is a major part of its allure to filmmakers and customers alike.
2. Jahn’s: Diner of mysterious ice cream sundae names
81-04 37th Ave., Jackson Heights
The BLT is the perfect sandwich to eat at Jahn’s, a Jackson Heights diner that doubles also an ice cream parlor. Perfect because it leaves plenty of room for one of Jahn’s over-the-top old-school ice cream sundaes. It’s not just any ice cream parlor either; it’s the last remaining outpost of the Bronx-based chain founded by John Jahn in 1897.
“Boiler Maker and Helper,” “Pink Elephant” and “Joe Sent Me” are just some of the whimsical names of the ice cream creations on the back page of the menu. Apart from standard sundaes and the infamous creation known as “Everything Else But—The Kitchen Sink,” which will set you back $55 and serves eight, we had no clue what any of the other sundaes were all about.
“Can you tell me anything about the names of the sundaes?” we asked the owner. “I don’t know anything about them,” he answered. “They came with the place.” Just like that old-school metal ice cream bowl the creations are served in, we thought, and headed out the door and back to the 21st century.
3. Jackson Hole: The 7-pound burger diner
35-01 Bell Blvd., Bayside
If you’re ready to embrace some of the biggest burgers in Queens, jet over to Jackson Hole diner on Bell Boulevard. The famously known “Home of The 7 oz. Burger” has been a fixture in the Bayside community since 1972.
The family-owned business also has a second Queens location in Astoria, three in Manhattan and one in Englewood, New Jersey. The interior of the Bayside spot resembles a nostalgic 1970s-style diner with vintage Coca-Cola and Pepsi memorabilia and classic Betty Boop cartoon figures.
Not to mention, the old-school atmosphere is equally as appealing as the food. The popular burger joint, located at 35-01 Bell Blvd., has served celebrities like President Clinton, Denzel Washington, Jennifer Aniston and Derek Jeter, to name a few.
“All our burgers are big and round, so please be patient, they are more than half a pound,” says the Jackson Hole Family’s witty motto.
4. Georgia Diner: Catering to Elmhurst’s diverse community
86-55 Queens Blvd., Elmhurst
The diner, located at 86-55 Queens Blvd., was founded by Dimitrios Kaloidis who has gone on to open several more diners across Queens and Brooklyn. The menu contains standard diner fare including omelettes, griddle specials, wraps, sandwiches, burgers and bigger entrees featuring fish, steak and chicken.
The diner is open 24 hours a day and seats 310 people. It also includes a private party room that accommodates 50 people.
According to general manager John Singh, the diner has also began catering to the changing population in Elmhurst. Instead of just American and Greek food, the menu includes dishes popular with the large Latino, Chinese and Korean communities.
“We try to [change the items] because the neighborhood has changed,” Singh said. “[We serve a growing] Spanish Chinese, Korean community. We try to accommodate to them with their own specialties.”
He said the family-friendly atmosphere extends to the employees, some of whom have been here for decades.
“We appreciate our loyal customers,” Singh said. “The people [who] come there [at] 30 or 40 years old were kids here when they were asking for lollipops. We have a woman [who for] 30 years has been working there as a cashier.”
5. Tasty’s Diner: Feeding Ridgewood no matter what
58-02 Myrtle Ave., Ridgewood
The corner space at 58-02 Myrtle Ave. in Ridgewood has had many past lives before it became neighborhood’s beloved diner in 1981. “In 1915-1916 it was a bar,” said George Lagos whose family has owned Tasty’s Diner since 1981. “Then it was a haberdasher — men’s clothing shop — and in the 1950s it was a restaurant, ” he recalled. “And when my dad bought the place in the early ’80s, it was an old-school doughnut shop.”
Lagos family has converted the doughnut shop into a diner and have been able to satiate hungry Ridgewood residents throughout the waves of change the neighborhood has been through for. They have served immigrants from Germany, Italy, Eastern Europe and Latin America as well as the recent influx of “young hipsters,” as Lagos calls them.
The most popular item on the menu is their cheeseburger, which served in an old-fashioned way with pickles, cole slaw and French fries. People also love a wide selection of breakfasts at Tasty’s.
When asked what he is most proud of, Lagos says without hesitation that it’s the fact that Tasty’s remained open throughout the years no matter what was happening — whether it was Hurricane Sandy or a snow storm.