Old John’s Luncheonette Will Reopen, With a New Owner Who Has Quite a Story

By Carol Tannenhauser

Great news for the neighborhood! Old John’s Luncheonette, the classic 70-year-old diner on West 67th Street near Amsterdam Avenue — which closed in October to the dismay of the neighborhood and the entire city — will be reopened the first week in February, 2021, by a restaurateur with a remarkable connection to the place.

Louis Skibar started as delivery boy at Old John’s in 1984, at the age of 16, working his way up to short-order cook. He went on to open several restaurants of his own in Manhattan and Queens. According to a press release:

Louis renegotiated the Old John’s lease terms, ensuring the legacy of a diner that is near and dear to his heart. In addition to resurrecting the space, Louis is also bringing many of the former staff back too – one of the original 67th street crew members, Kathy Dellinger, will work on social media and photography for the new spot. And while the diner will get a bit of a facelift, the bones will be preserved and respected, and will still feature classic diner counter seating. Both indoor (once that is permitted again in the city) and outdoor seating will be available, as will takeout and/or delivery.

Old John’s will serve American Comfort Fare, including updated takes on many of its former dishes. It will operate daily, from 7AM – 12AM, and will also offer the neighborhood a full-service coffee bar, along with an assortment of to-go baked goods each morning. The diner will look to serve the neighborhood with a full service bar, featuring locally-sourced spirits.

Note: A reader commented correctly that Old John’s wasn’t at its current location in 1984. Here is the explanation, according to the press release: “The restaurant was forced to close in its original location due to development on the block (the diner was originally located at 66/Broadway for about 40 years). Old John’s would eventually relocate to W 67th Street, near Amsterdam Avenue, becoming a neighborhood mainstay for the next 30 years.”

NEWS | 57 comments | permalink
    1. Peter Salwen says:

      Terrific news. Old John’s was the greatest!

    2. uwsmom says:

      So grateful to Louis for revitalizing this neighborhood institution!

    3. Carol says:

      How wonderful!

    4. Patrick says:

      2021 is starting look better already. Great news!

    5. Diane Booth says:

      This is great! So good to see a resurrection of such a venerable icon.

    6. Paul says:

      This may be part of a pattern of “old” restaurants coming back with “new” owners who aren’t really strangers to the prior business but who are able to get reduced rents.

      This isn’t the first in the neighborhood and it won’t be the last.

    7. ben says:

      Best of luck to the new owner!

    8. Jan says:

      Such wonderful news! My home away from home when in NYC. Once I am able to travel again and am vaccinated, Old John’s will be among my first stops in NY.
      Love to Kathy and the rest of the staff.

    9. UWSer says:

      Sweet story. Welcome back, Louis!

    10. Peter Bloch says:

      Old John wasn’t there in 84. There was a Russian place called Troika at that address. Was it somewhere else?

    11. Linda Goodman says:

      Will it have the same phone number? It’s as ingrained in my memory as deeply as my own phone numbers!

    12. Kevin McAnarney says:

      FANTASTIC1
      Love the place… and come up from Hells Kitchen to eat (a lot)

    13. Harvey Schmelter-Davis says:

      fabulous news!

    14. Linda Goodman says:

      Old John’s was originally called “JOHN’s,” on Broadway between 66th and 67th ST. Address: 1966 Broadway. I know because my office was upstairs, on the second floor of the same building. Musicians and dancers from the Lincoln Center community would drop in regularly. I saw Peter Martins, the wife of the Mexican composer Carlos Chavez, members of Speculum Musicae – anyone who wanted a quick sandwich and a good cup of coffee. The staff was so alert! So quick! After a while, I had only to show up and Eileen would have my coffee ready for take-out, just the way I liked it. Will Clarence be back at the NEW “Old John’s”?

    15. Bronx Boy says:

      This is about the first good news I’ve heard all year! Thank you Louis Skibar.

    16. Harry says:

      Where was it on 66/Bwy?

    17. Emily Miller says:

      What a lovely story! Happy to hear a neighborhood favorite is staying put and that a 16-year-old delivery boy was able to enjoy the American dream and now owns several restaurants in the city, including the one where he started.

    18. Larry says:

      Calling “Old Johns” 70 years old is a joke. I liked it when it was a tiny counter place on Broadway, in the 1970s. When it reopened years later (after the old Broadway counter has been closed for ages) in its current site, it was not very good, trading only on the beloved old name. Let’s hope the new owner gives us something better.

      What I would like to see it the return of Pat’s Bar! Now that was a great place! But sadly, the old crowd — Jenny, Moe, Beau, Mary, etc., are long gone.

      • Boris says:

        You and Linda Goodman should get together and come up with a few names from the past.

      • no work now says:

        Larry– you’re talking some serious Juilliard School hangs. Johns before class, Pats to end the day. Good memories.

        • Larry says:

          I forgot to mention Sonny, who was Jenny’s husband. His last name was Patolano. His father Louis Patolano had opened the place in the 1930s, hence the name “Pat’s.”

          Pat’s was a great hangout for Lincoln Center constituent staff. Best burgers, eggplant parmigiana, soups, etc., and drinks, including great Manhattans!

          Google “Sonny Patolano” and you’ll find a fascinating and sweet NYT article from 2001, long after Pat’s closed its doors.

    19. Jeff Rosenblatt says:

      Great news! I miss the egg creams.

    20. Morgan says:

      oh thank god

    21. Wonderful news!!! Does anyone also remember the great movie house on that block (W. 66 St) that showed foreign and independent movies? Miss that theater still. Glad to see the return of John’s!

      • Randy Kaplan says:

        Cinema Studio twin art theaters. Saw many movies there. Just north of Lincoln Square, torn down to build big apt. bldg. where Barnes & Noble and then Century 21 were.

      • EdNY says:

        Cinema Studio 1 & 2 on the corner, then John’s which was a sliver of a coffee shop.

      • rteplow says:

        The Regency Theatre! I saw some great old movies there, a Hitchcock retrospective being one of the best.

    22. HelenD says:

      This is an amazing story, kudos to that 16 year old delivery boy who achieved his dreams! Now I’m wondering if there is anyone out there who might save the Pier 72 diner. 😉

    23. Mindy Kaufman says:

      You just made my day! I remember the original John’s right where Century 21 is (was!).

    24. Tam says:

      This is such a great, NYC love story!

    25. Watto says:

      Great to hear that Old John’s is coming back!
      I worked at ABC back in the 60’s and ordered many lunches from the original John’s! Before the pandemic, I had many a lunch in Old John’s Welcome back!

    26. UWCider says:

      Great news! Now bring Big Nicks and Giuliani back!!!

    27. Paula Washington says:

      I know the faculty of the local schools will be delighted to learn that Old John’s is coming back. It was popular during Regents week for years. I’m glad the new owner has a history with the place. Best wishes!

    28. marc says:

      Wonderful news! Now, if only they would make it wheelchair accessible…

    29. tim says:

      Love stories like this and bodes well for 2021, thank you WSR!

    30. Kath says:

      SO GOOD to read this!!!!! YAY!

    31. Ron says:

      Had to work on Thanksgiving 1978, so my first dinner w/o family who were out of state. Luckily Johns had a sign in the window…complete Thanksigiving Dinner $4.00. It was a complete dinner…albeit shared at a counter with a few other down on their luck souls.

    32. Helene says:

      Great news

    33. Reg says:

      YAY !!! Great place to have dinner before Lincoln Center. Thank you Louis !!!!!!!

    34. Carolyn says:

      Yaaay! Good news! Now please bring back O’neil’s Balloon……life would be sweet!

    35. American Express 04/24 says:

      It was like my dining room for many years

    36. Heather Walters says:

      I hope you will have some vegetarian and vegan offerings. Last time I was there, baked beans were on the menu, but none available.

    37. Glenn Giere says:

      Great news, best of luck.Hope the new Old Johns can recapture the flavor of the old Old Johns.

    38. John E. says:

      Great news indeed! All the best to Louis and the staff!

      • Benn Mitchell says:

        Great news! We live directly across th street and even in foul weather run across without coats. We are returning to the City in March and Old John’s will be our first stop. My mouth is watering. We are very happy.

    39. Carole De Rienzo says:

      Already have a reminder in my cell phone.

    40. Dee says:

      I’m hoping they will have a wonderful matzoh ball soup, like Eisenberg’s on 5th Ave and 22nd. I was very disappointed by the versions offered at P.Queen and Friedman’s on 72nd.

    41. Suzanne Borget says:

      A classic story of the American Dream. The bones of this country.
      Congratulations, Louis!
      Looking forward to dining there again!

    42. jimbo says:

      John’s was convenient but the food was really tasteless.I hope for an improvement on the flavor.Please bring Manny back.

    43. It’s a pleasure for us to reopen soon!
      We invite you to follow us at: https://www.instagram.com/iloveoldjohns/