The Long Death of the Sad Little Diner On West Street

One of my favorite diners in New York is so small, you could literally blink and miss it while driving north on West Street.

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And it’s understandable – tucked in between two auto repair shops in the shadow of a large tree, it almost looks like it doesn’t want to be bothered with such trivialities as customers and business.

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That’s why I love 357 West Street – it’s so cozy, small, quaint, unassuming…A 1950′s era diner that’s somehow survived to 2012, hidden away from city and perfectly happy to stay that way. And sadly, there’s a good chance it won’t be here much longer.

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It’s hard to track down much information about 357 West Street before the 1970′s. Designed in the 1950′s by the Kullman Building Corporation, famous for their iconic diner designs throughout the northeast, 357 West Street was at least known as the Terminal Diner through 1989.

Picture from Nyc-architecture.com – Click for more + a full write-up.

Miniature urban sculpturist Alan Wolfson chose to immortalize it in one of his dioramas last year (his stuff is REALLY amazing):

Diner (3b)

According to RoadsideArchitecture.com, it later became the appropriately named Lost Diner in 1991, Seafood Organic by 1997, the Video Diner by 1999, and later, the Reel Diner and Miss Liberty Diner. In 2002, it was restored as the Lunchbox, and finally became Rib in 2005. Rib closed in 2006, and it’s been abandoned ever since, wasting away a little more each day.

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Rather than being over the top with ornamentation, I love how minimalist the design is, especially the sleek, horizontal line patterns (though during its Terminal days, the green was actually white; not sure if this was a restoration fix or a style choice):

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I also really like the rounded corner entrance and quarter-circle cement stairs:

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Though there’s not much of a view, the side of the diner is lined with windows. And actually, that’s quite a lot of trees for a New York side alley!

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Unfortunately, every time I pass by the West Street diner, it looks a little closer to falling over, and this last time was no exception: someone had smashed a hole through one of the windows.

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There’s very little to see on the inside, other than a few left over cabinets and some stainless steel. But it really takes no imagination to imagine this as a fully operation diner, complete with a lunch counter and booths.

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I noticed a mattress toward the back – is someone living here? More disturbingly, is that red candle wax dripping down the side of that counter? If so, wouldn’t be surprised if a fire is what ultimately takes down the place down in the near future.

kull (7b)

Preservationist Michael Perlman, who helped save the Cheyenne and Moondance diners (by getting them the hell out of New York City, where owners were set to demolish them), submitted a proposal to the owners in 2008, but no word of where that stands. I see that fellow New York City bloggers Untapped Cities and George Hahn have also recently bemoaned the state of 357 – it really is that bad.

Every time I pass the little diner at 357 West Street, I assume it’s the last time I’ll see it standing. It’s been dying a slow death for a while in a city that is simply incapable of appreciating the little things over the value of square footage. Here’s hoping someone swoops in and saves it, one way or the other.

-SCOUT

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23 comments

  1. People must have liked this one a lot! I did Manhattan directory assistance in the early-mid eighties, and I remember getting quite a few requests for the number for the Terminal Diner. I wonder what made it special?

    • Hey Sandy, any chance people were requesting “Terminal” or “The Terminal,” and not the “Terminal Diner”? That was a famous nightclub up the road a bit, and might make a little more sense. Though I can’t imagine anyone at Terminal ever answered the phone.

      • Maybe, but I didn’t usually work nights – I’d think they were maybe calling in lunch orders or something.

  2. Growing up we would pass a similar diner on the way to my Grandmother’s house. It was even abandoned in those days and up until 5 years ago it was still there with the same fixtures – nothing has changed, it’s as if it was in a time capsule, preserved for posterity.

  3. I remember this place, it’s such a shame that it’s so decrepit.

  4. I went there a lot when it was The Lost Diner. It was one of those secret New York places of which there are so few these days. An oasis of comfort food and friendliness. It was so out-of-the-way and that’s what made it great. Sorry to see how it has declined. Who owns it, anyway? Considering the changes in the neighborhoods nearby (=richyrich) I am surprised it has gotten so bad. Unless neglect is intentional because they expect to sell the property to a developer some day.

  5. I get the appeal for it aesthetically, but maybe it has to go, because the location just can’t sustain a diner? I mean, it’s not like it was successfully run by one person and forced out due to gentrification or something. Judging from all of the owners and different monikers, I just have to assume that it’s kind of a poisoned location with an great design.

  6. If they really want to stop bedbugs they probably shouldn’t have dragged that filthy mattress sealed up in plastic in there! Yuck.

  7. Fairly near my office, I ate there a couple of times. I think when it was Lost Diner, and then again as the Video Diner (which was silly fun–you could watch a movie while you ate at your table). It is just in a spot that is a bit out of the way for office employees (then again, so is the Ear Inn, and that does exceedingly well).

    I still look for it every time we drive up West St. It makes me sad because it is so sweet.

  8. Sad post. I love all things diner and make it a point to track down locations I haven’t been to before. I do hope there will be a knight in shining armor, preferably stainless, that swoops in and saves this damsel altho given NYC’s track record of late I wouldn’t bet on it.

  9. So sad. Yet one more little gem that will vanish into history, undoubtedly to be replaced by yet another soulless glass and steel excrescence.

    Not sure if you have seen this story, just paste the following into Google if not:

    Famous NY diner relocated to Wyoming up for sale

  10. I photographed this old haunt many times, and ate there often during the 90s. It’s in a doomed location, unfortunately, so no one will take a chance on reopening even though it’s across from the very busy Hudson river promenade. Somehow I think it will be there til it actually does collapse.

  11. When I worked at Penguin Books on Hudson and Houston in the early 90s, the Contracts Department staff went as a group for lunch at The Lost Diner (as it was known) at least once every two weeks. It had great diner food. What we never noticed, I guess, was how easy it was for a group of 6 to 8 people to get seats in such a small place each time.

    I hadn’t realized how much I missed that place, and my former co-workers until I read this post. Thanks for the nostalgia, Scout. Time for me to look up some folks on LinkedIn.

  12. I used to pass this all time and always wondered about it. That around 2008 – it certainly looks a lot worse since I last saw it. I hope it survives!

  13. How very very sad. I’m wondering why it wouldn’t draw customers if its located across from the Hudson Rv promenade?

  14. I went here with my dad as a kid, and I’ve seen the diorama! Makes me sad to see it this way. Thanks for documenting.

  15. Muy bello y una gran pérdida.

  16. Scout, re your mention of “The Terminal” nightclub, did you mean “The Tunnel”? I was a nightclub bartender in the 80′s and never heard of a club called The Terminal. The Tunnel, however, was just up the road from the diner you write about (28th and 12th if I remember) and it had been a terminal for freight trains serving the piers and such. Part of the fun there was that on the East end of the club there were still two big gaping tunnels that led to God knows where. They were cordoned off though…probably a good idea. Cheers

  17. I worked one block away for many years… I wish I’d gotten around to eating there. Always found myself at Sweetlife Cafe, instead.

  18. I used to live on Beach Street in the 80s and my boyfriend and I would frequent the Terminal Diner quite frequently. It really felt like a remote outpost. But then, so did Tribeca at that time. I miss the Terminal Diner. I think it was in Martin Scorses’ After Hours. Not sure, but I think that was the diner.

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