As I post this, Joe Jr., the timeless Greenwich Village diner at Sixth Avenue and 12th Street, it locking its door for the last time. Though usually open until 1 AM, the owners chose to close at 3 PM on this, the final day in a tenure that began shortly after Kennedy was elected.
If there was any doubt that the corner diner is beloved by Villagers, it was dispelled today. There was a line outside Joe Jr. at 11:45 AM. I don't know about you, but I've never seen a line outside a greasy spoon before. Everyone made comments to the general effect that it was as low down dirty shame that the place was closing, that the landlord was a louse, that rents were too high all around, and that the Village was going to hell in a handbasket.
One youngish couple talked about how they had had their first date in New York at Joe Jr. some 12 years ago. A woman with kid, a German Shepherd and a skateboard in tow complained—to a woman looking for people to sign her petition to get a Cy Vance on the Democratic ballot for District Attorney—that "people under 30 don't understand what they're losing."
Inside, people expressed their condolences and sign the petition to save the eatery on the counter near the cash register. Customers took pictures of themselves posing with busboys. A woman nursing her coffee, and looking downright dejected, said she had been there for dinner Friday night and would be back before the place closed. The staff was stoic, doing their job with efficiency, as if it were any other day. Gregory, the beefy son of owner Eleftherios "Teddy" Hondros, wore an expression of grim resignation on his large, sweaty, unshaven face. Loyal customers asked if there wasn't another space in the neighborhood he could move to.
The Hondros family has owned the restaurant since 1977, and its thought the diner has been at the location for 45 years. No one know who Joe. Jr. was.
I ordered a bacon cheeseburger, well done, and a Coke. It was a good diner meal. That such a quintessentially American business should on July 4th is bitterly ironic.