4. Belmore Cafeteria, Kips Bay

Belmore Cafeteria
Photo by Randy Masser, Courtesy of the archive of Randy Masser Photography

The Belmore Cafeteria once stood at 28th Street and Park Avenue South. Opened in 1929, it was founded by Philip Siegel and run by his family until it closed in 1981. Billed as “New York’s Most Fabulous Self-Service Restaurant,” the establishment attracted some interesting characters.

Members of the notorious Murder Inc. gang reportedly ate there, but the clientele the cafeteria was known for was taxi drivers. It was a common sight to see a row of taxis lined up at the curb outside. Fittingly, the cafeteria appears as a location in the 1976 Robert DiNero film,Taxi Driver. An estimated 5,000 people a day passed under the cafeteria’s glowing red neon sign and through its turnstile each weekday. In 1981, the Siegel’s sold their building and a condominium tower was built at the site.