My favorite diner, then called The Modern Age

My favorite diner, then called The Modern Age

My first NYC apartment was on Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens, from 1985–88. I have very fond memories of my bachelor days there, but there are a lot of strange memories, too. Here’s a quick list of them.
I remember:

1I moved to Steinway Street, a main thoroughfare of Astoria, from my parents’ house in the quiet neighborhood of Whitestone, Queens. I liked living right near a subway stop but there was also a nightclub down the block. Drunk people would stagger out of the club and sometimes they’d stop in the alley next to my building to relieve themselves.

2I had mice and plugged up all the mice holes with steel wool. Supposedly they couldn’t chew Corduroyloveseat1through that, but I still would see them. I think eating the steel wool only made them tougher.

3I loved my ugly but comfortable dark-orange corduroy couch. My later-to-be wife did not.

4A group of young Latino women lived above me, and when they would rush around getting ready to go out at night, the rat-a-tat sound of their stiletto heels on my ceiling was amusing or annoying, depending on my mood.

5For a while there was a blond-haired guy (a rarity in that ethnic neighborhood) who was burgling apartments on my block. “Young blond guy” fit my description, too, and I sensed that the neighbors were looking at me with suspicion. One day my doppelgänger decided to burgle me. I opened my apartment door to find a bunch of my meager possessions (cassette tapes, etc.) heaped into piles on my living room floor. I walked into my bedroom and the window was wide open. I conclude from this that he was in the midst of stealing my stuff when he heard me coming in and fled out the window. So I never actually came face to face with “the thief who looked like me.”

6My 1-bedroom apartment had tiny, tiny rooms, including the world’s smallest kitchen, I thought. (Later I realized that if a table could fit into your kitchen, it wasn’t that small.) However, I rarely cooked in the kitchen because….

Greek-Waffles-silo7I would stop across the street at the Modern Age diner late at night for dinner, and the owner (George? Steve? Nick?) would take pity on this skinny young guy and give me large amounts of leftover Greek food to take home. The diner had little jukeboxes in the booths—I loved that! I also loved the little signs they posted around the place, promoting various food items. They were proud of their “brain muffins” (not sure if this was a typo or they really believed their muffins made you smarter). And one sign helpfully explained that their Belgian waffles were “gigantic in size when compared to conventional waffles.’”

I wanted to get a picture of the Modern Age diner for this post, but turns out I am a little too late. I found the following sad tale through Google Street View:

The last days of the Modern Age

In 2007, now called the Astoria Diner

2007: My little Greek diner, now called the Astoria Diner

2009: A tall building has risen up next to the diner, and the diner's windows are boarded up (oh no)!

2009: A tall building has risen up next to the diner, and the diner’s windows are boarded up (oh no!).

2012: A dental practice has ousted the diner, with a Dunkin Donuts to the right. No more free meals!

2012: A dental practice has ousted the diner, with a Dunkin Donuts to the right. No more free meals from Nick!

 

Warren Berger now lives in leafy Westchester, and writes and speaks about innovation. His most recent book is A MORE BEAUTIFUL QUESTION.

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