Blog: I miss my old neighborhood diner

It was a sad day for neighborhood residents five years ago today when Scobee Grill in Little Neck closed their doors for the very last time this coming Sunday night, Nov. 28, 2010.

Growing up in the neighborhood during the late 1960s and early 1970s going to Scobee was part of my life and of many others. Twenty years ago, I met my wife on a blind date at a booth in Scobee. We had returned every year on the anniversary of our first meeting. My wife and I made our final visit on the last day of operations. How disappointing that the site until a few months ago still stood vacant today. Four years later construction is under way which will support a new bank and dentist’s office. Within several blocks on Northern Boulevard in Little Neck are four other banks, three dentists’ offices and 20 additional vacant first- and second-floor storefronts.

On very cold winter nights or hot summer days, rather than eat at home we would walk a few blocks over to Scobee. Over time, we have gotten to know many of the staff on a first name basis. Eating at there was like joining your family for a good home cooked meal. Frequently, the portions were so generous that we had a doggy bag to take home providing a second meal the next day.

Over the past decades, we witnessed many other changes to our neighborhood. On Northern Boulevard, Acme Bowling Alley, the original Scobee Dinner, the mini-Sears Roebuck on Great Neck Road, North Shore Bicycle, Little Neck Movie Theater, Bill’s news stand, the old 5 & 10 Virginia Variety, Patrick’s Pub, Little Neck Inn, Villa Bianca, Villa Bianca Bakery, Nelsons, Subway, Staples, several supermarkets along with other stores have come and gone.

Six years, our good friend Sal, owner of Sal’s Pizzeria – decided to retire. Many people didn’t realize how knowledgeable he was about life, business, government and politics. we always urged him to run for public office, but he had a full time job to worry about.

Walking down Northern Boulevard in the evenings, my wife and I see fewer people dining out and shopping, except on Friday and Saturday nights. Years ago, we would never see any vacant storefronts. Today, there are many.

In these difficult economic times, it is especially important to patronize our remaining local neighborhood businesses. My wife and I along with many Great Neck neighbors are regular patrons of the local community stores in neighboring Little Neck on Northern Blvd. from Glenwood Street at the City Line to Marathon Parkway. Why drive and waste time? There are so many great local businesses. Leave your car in the driveway, save some gas, say hello to neighbors and take a walk around the neighborhood to get some exercise. We frequent North Shore Hardware, Greek Isles, Little Neck Pharmacy, Queens County Savings Bank, Chef Joe’s Marathon Food Shop, King Wok, Capital One Bank, Stop and Shop, Aunt Bella’s Italian Restaurant and others.

We don’t mind occasionally paying a little more to help our local businesses survive. Don’t forget your cook and server at your favorite local neighborhood restaurant. We try to tip 20% against the total bill including taxes. If it is an odd amount, round up to the next dollar. If you can afford to eat out, you can afford an extra dollar tip. When ordering take out, don’t forget to leave a dollar or two for the waiter or cook. Trust us, it is appreciated.

Remember these people are our neighbors. They work long hours, pay taxes and provide local employment. If we don’t patronize our local community stores and restaurants to shop and eat, they don’t eat either. This helps keep our neighbors employed and the local economy growing.

With the loss of both the Seville Diner (Douglaston) and Scobee Grill is the lack of a good neighborhood diner. I have enjoyed many excellent meals for decades when frequenting any one of many local diners. Over the years, we have seen the demise of the Gold Star (Bayside), Sage (Elmhurst), Saravan (Flushing), Palace (Flushing), Future (Fresh Meadows), Fame (Jamaica) and other diners

Diners have been part of my life from teenage years to today. Eating out is a periodic ritual with either friends or family. Portions are generous. Who never took a doggie bag home with leftovers to eat the next day. Between the customary soup, salad, rolls, coleslaw and pickles along with the main course — dinner could satisfy the heartiest appetite. Many time, we bagged our desserts to go.
Neighborhoods all over Queens have seen changes over time. Many new immigrant groups sometimes favor their own ethnic foods and restaurants. Diners have also lost customers over time to numerous fast food restaurants. Many of their menus have expanded to also include breakfast items and a greater variety of items to select from for lunch or dinner.

Remember these people are our neighbors. Our local entrepreneurs who own and operate diners have continued to invest in our community creating new employment opportunities without the assistance of federally-funded taxpayers’ stimulus dollars. They work long hours, pay taxes and provide local employment. If we don’t patronize our local restaurants, they don’t eat either.

Why not honor the found memories we had at the Scobbes Grill along with the Gold Star, Fame, Future, Palace, Sage, Saravan, Seville and other diners which have come and gone by continuing to patronize our remaining diners. Let us toast the memories of good times gone by at Scobee Diner and make sure we don’t lose any more.

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