Friday, 1 in the morning, I’m in a diner at the corner of the street. It’s called Tom’s Diner and it’s oddly famous for starring in Seinfeld and in the song of its name by Susan Vega. Everywhere I turn, I run into a famous landmark that was in a book, a movie, a song, a filmsite, something! I don’t understand why, of all the diners in all of New York, even just Manhattan, this one would be…the one to be special.

It operated the way I imagine a pub in London would. There’s a bar for single customers to watch whatever’s on TV – there was a crusty old man at the end furiously eating as the owners eyed him in amusement. The lights were a bright white, not clinical, but it’s not dingy. You look at the person you are sitting with, you really see them. I missed the typical 50-style diner set-up. Tinseltown tries to replicate it, but it tries so hard to replicate something that’s a cultural relic, like, this is what we imagine diners are like in America. But Tom’s Diner doesn’t have to prove anything, since it’s a family owned Greek restaurant that’s been around for generations. It lacks the self-consciousness that other restaurants need to market themselves.

The downside for being in a “traditional” establishment was being a vegetarian became hard again. I missed a great potato salad, but I’ll also miss a great veggie burger. (Gourmet Kitchen Burger in West Hampstead had the best butternut squash burger.) Or a reinvention of any deli foods.

And the hot chocolate. You’d think for all I snob about hot chocolate that I would not accept a machine-made water-based hot chocolate. But it’s all part of the diner experience, and some how, that makes it taste okay, good even. I admit, I did ask for milk, and the waiter kind of laughed at me.

But it felt like the perfect place to be on a Friday night.

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