The LoDown has a nice piece profiling six Lower East Side diners and their owners, long lunch counters, white paper hats, and all. The diners range in age from 5 to 37 years old, some original, some Greek reformulations of earlier Jewish businesses from the neighborhood's immigrant days.
Diners like these are something of an endangered species in New York, which the story makes clear. At Classic Coffee Shop on Hester, for instance, the rent has been steadily rising for years, and owner Carmine Morales doesn't think he can stay in business much longer if rates continue to climb. Steve Palakas and Spiros Nakos of Olympic Diner share their space with the Essex Street Market, a building the Economic Development Corporation is looking to sell to new developers.
But others are more lucky. Zafi's Luncheonette is so far east on Grand Street that he doesn't have much competition, and residents of the Hillman Cooperative, the organization that owns his lease, are frequent customers.
These diners are impressive accounts of longevity in a business where restaurant lifetimes seem to shrink all the time. It's a good reminder to pay the old guard a visit.