Diner, pioneer Williamsburg restaurant, celebrates 20th birthday
Many of the elements of Williamsburg’s well-publicized culinary scene can be traced to one restaurant – Diner at 85 Broadway, which opened in January 1999.
The casual restaurant that serves simply prepared, locally served food in a former railroad dining car helped turn “a neighborhood full of artists’ lofts and not much else into a culinary destination,” according to The New York Times.
Diner was founded by Andrew Tarlow and Mark Firth, two friends who were living in a Williamsburg loft, working at the Odeon in Manhattan and thinking about opening a restaurant in what was then a neighborhood with few food options. When they bought the diner, “It looked like a really bad cafeteria with orange Formica tables and a huge Coca-Cola machine on the bar,” Firth told the Times.
Because they opened Diner on a budget, they had to use whatever materials they could, and some of this atmosphere survives to the present day. Even now, servers write the menu down on the white butcher paper that covers each table because Tarlow and Firth forgot to order menus for the restaurant’s opening, the Times said.
Tarlow and Firth also credit Caroline Fidanza, the restaurant’s original chef, for Diner’s success. From the beginning, she focused on finding the best local produce available.
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