This morning, I was upset to walk past our neighborhood greasy spoon, beloved Greenwich Village institution Joe Jr.’s, and see a handwritten “LOST OUR LEASE” sign in its window, with a declaration that the place will close this Sunday, July 5. A smattering of smaller signs asks patrons to sign a petition to save the restaurant.
Look, I know that change and turnover are an inexorable part of New York City, but my sadness about Joe Jr.’s isn’t just based on sentimentality. This place serves good diner food—homemade soups, terrific omelettes with corned-beef hash, fountain lemonade, and burgers that realize beautifully that specific diner-burger idiom—AND it is thriving, not a tired old joint wanting for customers and vitality.
So I sent out an APB to bloggers I knew would care—Josh Ozersky of The Feedbag, Ed Levine of Serious Eats, and Jeremiah Moss of Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York—and they all posted my sad entreaty to help save the place. (Josh mischievously identified me as “Bob Cratchit.”) Also picking up my words were Eater and New York magazine’s Grub Street blog, though the latter curiously quoted someone named “David Camp.” Thanks, blogging community! I really do appreciate it.
Alas, per further reporting from Grub Street, it looks like the place is finished. The Hondros family, which owns Joe Jr.’s, sounds resigned to their fate, and the petition movement was started by crestfallen customers, not the Hondroses. I beseech all the landlords with empty storefronts in the Village to be sympathetic, and I beseech some young would-be restaurateur to start a new institution that will serve our neighborhood as well, and as unpretentiously, as Joe Jr.’s has.*
* BONUS: Please see this touching appreciation from The Villager’s Ed Gold of Louie, né Elias Vassilakis, the beloved Joe Jr.’s counterman who died abruptly in 2004. Louie’s was the first death I had to explain to my kids in that life-lesson, death-of-Mr. Hooper-on-Sesame Street sort of way.
UPDATE: The New York Times has filed a report that carries a faint whiff of hope for a stay of execution.
UPDATE OF UPDATE: Alas, an eleventh-hour save was not to happen. Joe Jr.’s is no more.