Vintage Photos: NYC Diners in the 1990s (Empire, Moondance, Cheyenne, Lost Diners)

Get a glimpse of what iconic NYC vintage diners looked like in the 1990s from photographer Grégoire Alessandrini and the quest to save the diners.

Empire DinerThe Empire Diner in the 1990s, all photos in this article by Grégoire Alessandrini

New York City’s vintage diners were still active and running in the 1990s but despite their iconic history, they soon faced an uncertain future. Efforts to save the diners helped preserve some but very few remain in their original state. Get a glimpse of what these diners looked like in the 1990s (when they were still operating at their original location) in these photos by Grégoire Alessandrini. We previously featured Alessandrini’s images of gritty Times Square in the 1990s in our vintage photo column.

The Empire Diner in Chelsea dates back to 1946 and was built by Fodero Dining Car Company. After being abandoned for some time, it was revived in 1976 and remained in operation then on. With its iconic Art Moderne exterior, the diner appeared in many films and was a popular eatery for many celebrities but the Empire diner eventually closed its doors in 2010. The restaurant re-opened as The Highliner to rather negative reviews, and closed by late 2012.

Empire Diner-New-York-Untapped-Cities 2

Empire Diner Empire State BuildingDuring the debate and lawsuit over the Empire Diner after its closure in 2010, this Empire State replica went missing from the diner

Built by the Kullman Building Corporation in the 1940s, the tiny Art Deco Lost Diner was tucked away at 357 West Street. The Lost Diner was known by many names during its run, such as the Lunchbox Diner, but it closed once and for all in 2006 and has been abandoned ever since. What’s left now is the decaying chrome structure, which has deteriorated significantly between our visit in 2011 and earlier this year.

Lost Diner

Lost Diner

The Cheyenne Diner, at 411 Ninth Avenue, was built in 1940 by the Paramount dining car company. This Art Moderne diner was known as the Market Diner till 1986 and then as Cheyenne Diner until it closed in 2008. Rather then facing demolishment, the diner was relocated to Alabama with hopes that it would be restored and reopened, but the structure remains in storage.

Cheyenne Diner

Cheyenne Diner

The Moondance Diner first opened in 1933 and became an iconic fixture with its revolving crescent moon. The SoHo diner made many appearances in films and TV shows, such as Friends, but after decades of operation, it was set to be closed and demolished in 2007. With the help of preservationist Michael Perlman, who founded the Committee To Save The Moondance Diner, the diner found a new home in Wyoming. The Moondance made it to its new home (albeit in a less than perfect condition) and was reopened but the future of this diner is still unclear.

Moondance Diner

Moondance Diner

Here are a few more snapshots of vintage diners from Grégoire Alessandrini‘s website, click on for more:


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Sam Chinita Restaurant-Diner-New-York-Untapped-Cities-2


See more from our Vintage Photography column and get in touch with the author.

 diners, empire diner, Gregoire Alessandrini, kullman diner, preservation, vintage photos

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