Old John’s Luncheonette Appears to Have Served Its Last Waffle After About 70 Years on the UWS

Old John’s Luncheonette at 148 West 67th Street looks like it’s closed for good, the latest casualty of the restaurant recession brought on by Covid-19.

Old John’s, which has been around since the 1950s, was a classic diner that had tried to reopen in July. But the sign on the window makes it clear that it didn’t last long. The phone wasn’t operating or taking messages.

Old John’s was known for its beloved waitstaff. Even the menus had an old-school vibe.

A GoFundMe fundraiser had raised $8,710 for the restaurant.

“Anyone who has ever dined in or taken out, quickly learns that the staff and servers make this place so special,” wrote Molly Sherm, who organized it. “I, along with many others, have formed connections and friendships with the employees over the years and in many ways they have come to feel like family. Manny, Raul, Kathy, and many others always work hard to take care of us and get us what we need.”

Thanks to Shiri and Jeff for the tips.

FOOD, NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 43 comments | permalink
    1. UWSmaven says:

      This is a neighborhood tragedy. Actually, “Old John’s” was the reincarnation of John’s Coffee Shop, located next to the Embassy Theater, (where Equinox now stands). They delivered constantly to those of us who worked at ABC and there are many great outtakes of John’s deliverymen wandering right on to the set during live broadcasts. Susan Lucci once said it was a favorite place. “Old John’s” is run by the sons of the original owner and it was a warm and friendly place with great food. But I guess with no Lincoln Center performances and no real place for outdoor dining, the die was cast. Such a shame.

      • Helaine says:

        I remember the original John’s Luncheonette as located where Century 21 is (was) now, next to Cinema Studio movie theater on Broadway between 66th and 67th. Am I misremembering?

    2. Susan Wadsworth says:

      It also closed because much of the clientele
      came before or after concerts at Merkin Hall,
      soconveniently located just across the street. The cooks were amazing in the wide
      range of cuisine they prepare – in addition to regular coffeeshop fare. We will miss this very much.

    3. Bronx Boy says:

      Visiting Old John’s was like walking into New York 50 years ago. I’ll miss their French dip, tasty breakfasts, satisfying burgers and the air of urbanity.

      Plus, it was a diner with a liquor license.

      • Jo says:

        Oh. French Dip. I had forgotten. Never had the pleasure of Old John’s, but French Dip was my version of a prime rib dinner. Loses like this closing can be intensely devastating.

    4. marian lamin says:

      We will miss you, old friend. Many good meals over the years

    5. James Demetrios says:

      My story with the diner is that 2 years ago, I ordered a
      Cheese omelet. When the order came, they forgot the cheese. When I mentioned it to the server, he picked up my plate, put a couple of slices of cheese on its, microwaved it and brought it back. I never went back.

    6. Elizabeth Stone says:

      oh no! What a loss. I’ve taught at Fordham for many years, and for a cozy comfortable lunch I don’t go to Rosa Mexicana or even the Flame. It was always Old John’s I headed for. I’m so sorry to see it gone.

    7. Bob Lamm says:

      I had many great meals at Old John’s, had some lovely conversations with the staff, and a great chat there one time with the actor Paul Dooley (who obviously loved the restaurant). Sad news.

    8. Maggie Nunez says:

      I was the original waitress when Old John’s opened at this location in the Summer of 1998. Emmanuel Kambouris, Luis Skivar and the chef Frank Casas gave me opportunities that I would have never had, they allowed me to study in between tables so I could achieve upward mobility. That was my family, my home, my everything. I made friendships that I still have to this date and received so much love from the locals who kind of adopted me. I am today a successful person with advanced degrees who was able to change her life and that of her children because of Old John’s, I was looking forward to going back after the pandemic to fill the void in my heart and support them. I am truly sad.

      – Maggie.

      • John E. says:

        Nice story Maggie! I was so sad when Manny died. I remember when I moved into the neighborhood and how he greeted me so warmly when I first walked in. Such a nice man!

        They treated all the regulars like family. I’m heartbroken by this news.

    9. Pcnyc says:

      Sad. These little, modest communal spots give color and vibrancy to our neighborhood and are falling like dominoes.
      Where will we find respite? Corporate Columbus Circle?

    10. EGF says:

      This one hits especially hard.

    11. Brunnie says:

      Very sad!! What will the Philharmonic players do now for lunch and dinner?? They had good food, good ambiance, and near $$ Lincoln Center restaurants. Will miss them.

    12. John E. says:

      Terrible news! Loved talking to Clarence who worked the night shift. He had great stories about the UWS. All of them were always nice to me.

      Manny must be turning over in his grave…

    13. ZoomZ says:

      One by one these places close up for good.
      If NYC will not open up soon, most will never open again.
      NYC – RIP.

    14. Ken says:

      A real tragedy. This was one of the few remaining reasonable, congenial and unfussy sit-down restaurants in the Lincoln Center area. The city we love is slowly disappearing before our eyes.

    15. Otis says:

      Whenever I walked by OJ’s it looked run down. Look at how grimy that maroon awning is over the door.

      A little soap and water could have brightened up the place a bit and maybe kept it alive. Small businesses need to maintain their spaces better.

    16. Marion Marino says:

      O I am so sad! My friends and I loved this place. Loved the staff. I just feel really bad. There will never be another Old John’s. I hope the people who worked there can find other places as friendly.

    17. David Thalberg says:

      We lived in the Toulaine, right above. When our first daughter was born, I used to take her in there with me (as an infant) for breakfast, so my wife could get a little shut-eye.

      I loved the waitstaff – they were terrific. Such a shame.

      • Maggie Nunez says:

        I remember you!!! Hanna’s dad! (I hope I’m right!) your baby and all the other babies made my job as a waitress so much brighter, as I was in college to become an early childhood specialist teacher and development consultant. Loved everyone like family, and still do.

        – Maggie.

    18. MonHu says:

      Went there at least 10 times and the food was sub par. We’re not missing much.

    19. GaryGlitter says:

      Old John’s was a real locals-in-the-know neighborhood place that I loved going to. Full of genuine warmth, friendliness and character. I would dine there just by myself and the staff always treated me like a V.I.P. Whatever the owners and staff did to make strangers like me feel welcome, I offer my heartfelt praise and appreciation to them! Much Thanks, Old John’s, you did us right!

    20. Mary Kaye says:

      I’ve continually walked by Uncle John’s in the last couple of months in hopes they’d have
      opened for takeout. One of the last homestyle
      neighborhood places, with a varied and affordable American menu, and staff who you
      came to know quickly,as a regular. Didn’t know they’d tried to open in July. Wish word had got out. Of course, I think much of their business came from pre-theatre or pre-concert diners, but alas they disappeared w/ the shutting down of the many live cultural
      venues in the area. You’re missed, Uncle John.

    21. JS says:

      A huge loss for the community and so sorry for the staff.

      Business Insider 2011: “If Cheers was a luncheonette, it would have been Old John’s. The larger than life, heart-felt greeting you receive upon stepping through the front door draws you in like you’re the special visitor they’ve been waiting for all morning. Happily, the charm of Old John’s doesn’t stop there. The excellent customer service that continues throughout your meal, the spacious booths perfect for Sunday morning brunch lounging, and the extremely affordable prices are still just the icing on the cake…”

    22. Meryl says:

      My 89 year old neighbor, Gil, went there almost daily and they made him feel like family. Will be missed.

    23. EdNY says:

      Anyone remember the name of the restaurant in that space prior to 1998? It was “Center” something.

      • Benn Mitchell says:

        Really sad. We live directly across the street in Tower 67. For breakfast, some weekends we would dash across, my wife still in pajamas and only a jacket. (I was dressed.) I don’t remember the waitress’s name. She knew how my wife liked her pancakes and I, my eggs. We will really miss Old John’s

    24. Bob S says:

      Old John’s was my go to place. The day I retired, Kathy served me my last meal there and Manny picked up the the tab. A true gem of the UWS gone forever.

    25. CarolUWS says:

      This is so sad. We were there last Sunday and Kathy said they would be open outside through October. I guess they got the bad news that night. Such a loss for the staff and for the neighborhood. They have finally started working on the Mexican restaurant on the corner, but nothing can replace Old John’s.

    26. Reynold says:

      Not good food. We were served pre-fabricated pre-sliced turkey with a plastic separator still between the slices. They were not into cooking.

    27. Rachel Glickman says:

      I saw this sign last week and it broke my heart. I’m relatively new to the neighborhood (2-1/2 years) but I loved it there. Tried to donate, but the Go Fund Me is not taking new contributions.

    28. lawlady says:

      Old John’s has been a favorite forever. They provided a place that was comfortable, affordable, served a wide range of good food. The wait staff was like terrific. Monica was like family to me and my family and the guys were friendly. I really will miss this place.

    29. LivableCity says:

      Damn! Not many places you love despite the food, but Old Johns was a gem for all the reasons listed. (And if you knew what to order, just great.) I’m only from the last 15 years, but it feels pretty irreplaceable. Good luck to the staff. Wish the go fund me could re-open. Heartfelt thanks and good wishes to all the staff.

    30. Welcome to the new norm.... says:

      Also closing…..

      Regal movie theaters throughout the United States and Canada have officially close their doors for good …..AMC movie theaters are considering to close. Movies will now premier at 19.00 on in-demand from your home.