"Indigestion or Heartbreak?" isn't a guessing game that I often play. My heart's quite intact and, surprisingly after all these years of forgetting that feeling full is a signal to stop eating, so is my digestive system. But something in my gut did feel a bit sloshy today, perhaps due to off-meat, perhaps due to sympathetically joining the sea of diner lovers' hearts that broke after yesterday's news that Cup & Saucer, an old-school diner that has been a fixture of Chinatown and the Lower East Side for decades, will be closing next Monday, July 17.
New York-based blogs quickly crowded the lamentation train, and for good reason. Cup & Saucer—its employees, décor, and food—radiates with greasy spoon charm and warmth that terribly few other places could measure up to. Newer places just can't embody the kind of history it has. Owners John Vasilopoulos and Nick Castanos have been running this sliver of a diner on the corner of Canal and Elridge streets since 1988. They didn't change the name nor the signs when they took it over—it's been Cup & Saucer since 1940.
This latest addition to New York's vanishing diner culture is brought to you by increasing rents. According to The Lo-Down, the restaurant's rent would have been increased to $15,000 per month including real estate taxes. The owners of Cup and Saucer must have seen this coming for years—their worries about a steep rent increase is mentioned in this 2013 article from The Lo-Down—but for people like me who too casually visited Cup & Saucer and too carelessly forgot that nothing in New York is permanent, suddenly hearing about its closure was an unexpected punch to the gut.
I don't know if I deserve to be so upset about Cup & Saucer's closing. I'm ashamed to say that I only ate there three times during my decade-plus of living in New York. My first visit was in 2013 with my friend Max when I reviewed their burger for Serious Eats and Max reviewed their Fish on a Bun. After that, I went back a grand total of two more times, but considering how often Max and I talked about the place, it feels like I went more. I moved out of New York in the summer of 2014, and I haven't been back to the restaurant since.
(I was actually in New York this past May for one day, a too-short stop on a packed trip to a handful of cities on the East Coast. At my request, my friends and I hung out in Chinatown for a few hours. And at my request, we spent a chunk of our time drinking bubble tea. We drank bubble tea when WE COULD'VE BEEN PAYING OUR LAST RESPECTS AT CUP & SAUCER, BASKING IN THE GLOW OF BREAKFAST PLATES DRAPED IN BACON AND MUGS OF ENDLESS COFFEE. I chose "gnawing on tapioca balls" over that. What have I done.)
For better words and photos about Cup & Saucer than I can provide, check out Max Rovo's feature of the restaurant on The Lo-Down, Karla Murray's post on James and Karla Murray Photography, and this interview with co-owner Nick Castanos on Convicts.
If you get the chance to visit Cup & Saucer before it closes in a few days, I hope you take it (and let me know how it is!). For the rest of us, here are some more photos I've taken, plus a scan of the menu to remember the diner by.
- Front of the menu with photos galore! Click here for hi-res version.
- Inside the menu, a crash course in Classic Diner Food 101. Click here for hi-res version.
- Menuboard behind the counter.
- Behind the counter. I love the extra menu items hanging under the menuboard. "FRENCH TOAST / JUST LIKE MOM'S"; "HOMEMADE SOUP / YANKEE BEAN OR CHICKEN NOODLE"
- Behind the counter near the entrance.
- A cute Cup & Saucer group photo hanging above the windows.
Cup & Saucer
89 Canal St, New York, NY 10002, USA (map)
According to Google, these are the opening hours:
Fri: 6 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sat: 6 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Sun: 7 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Mon: 6 a.m. - 5 p.m.