BY JOEY SWEENEY
The Midtown II is closing. Little Pete’s is on life support, awaiting further diagnosis. The Melrose is a shell of its former self. Ah, but once, Philadelphia! Once, we were diner kings! We ate late night/early morning gristleburgers at The Savoy on 11th and Locust, before it was J.G. Domestic; we gripped a basket of “wets” at Diner on the Square before it was Marathon on the Square; we greased our insides at Snow White at 2nd and Market before it was Revolution House; we came down from ‘shrooms at The Continental when it was The Continental diner and we ate cheesesteaks at Silk City diner to soak up booze, instead of present day Silk City’s “Kabayaki Glazed Salmon.”
And this is merely scratching the surface of the places we’ve lost — beautiful third places, one and all — as New Philadelphia has become simultaneously a culinary destination and an increasingly stingy venue for the common man who likes things like “wets.” (Wets are fries with brown gravy, don’t make that face at me, they are amazing.) We bring it up for two reasons: One is that this is something that is happening as we speak — like the glaciers, Philly’s diners are melting before our very eyes and it may get worse, and never get better. The other reason is to simply prod you, dear reader, into asking questions: Are the places that have replaced (and will continue to replace) these diners more memorable/useful/of service to all Philadelphians? This isn’t meant to be a gentrification rant so much as noting what we’ll call a crisis of vibe: Because by and large, what is replacing a lot of Philly’s diners isn’t cooler than a diner, and diners were never meant to be cool in the first place. They simply were. Nor is much of what replaces the diner particularly authentic, either; much of it is merely “on trend,” soon to expire or be revealed for being not much, really.
In the meantime, what is to be done? The only thing we can think of is the obvious: Love your diner. Wrap your arms around South Street Diner, and all of its quirks. Patronize your beautiful Pennrose Diner. Swallow your pride and whatever else you can manage at the Oregon Diner. Increasingly, they are an endangered species. And every time you wait in line for eggs like a fucking chump at Sabrina’s, you kill off the spirit that made this city — and America itself — great. Let this post be the single tear that reminds you of that, and spurs you to action.