Famed diner, Old John’s Luncheonette, will reopen on Wednesday, June 23 as Old John’s Diner at 148 West 67th Street, between Amsterdam and Broadway. Only dinner will offered at first, with lunch and breakfast hours to follow in the coming weeks. The neighborhood institution shuttered in September 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has been resurrected by restaurateur Louis Skibar, a former Old John’s employee.
Due to its proximity to ABC and The Juilliard School, Old John’s became a regular hangout for celebrities and influencers throughout its 70-year run. Tony Danza, Susan Lucci, Kevin Kline and his wife Phoebe Cates, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Alan Alda, Paul Shaffer, Regis Philbin, Bradley Whitford, Wendell Pierce, Sports announcer Howard Cosell, the late ABC anchorman Peter Jennings, the casts of various soap operas like “One Life to Live,” “All My Children,” and more, were frequent visitors. To this day, Skibar says he can remember many of their orders.
Old John’s will continue to serve American comfort fare – with some updated takes on many of its former dishes. The menu has been created by consulting chef Grayson Schmitz, while pastry chef Tanya Ngangan is consulting on the desserts and baked goods.
As is the case at most traditional diners, Old John’s will eventually serve breakfast and brunch all day, with plates including Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes with maple syrup and lemon butter; the Fried Morty Egg Sando with fried mortadella, baked egg, fontina cheese, pepper jam, and gem lettuce; the New York Strong, which includes choices of two eggs any style, bacon or sausage patty, home fries or toast, and buttermilk pancakes or seasonal fruit; and the Huevos Rancheros Skillet with fried eggs, corn tortilla, salsa fresca, and avocado; amongst other options. Pastries will also be available and baked fresh each morning, along with a full-service coffee bar.
Lunch and dinner options will include an array of snacks, soups, salads, and sandwiches. Some noteworthy options will include Disco Fries with pickled red onions, gravy, and mozzarella; the Old John’s Burger with an 8 oz dry aged patty, cheddar cheese, and raw onion on a house made sesame bun with French fries; and the Veggie Muffaletta with olive salad, grilled eggplant, zucchini, red onion, broccolini and roasted red pepper.
There will also be homestyle comfort plates like My Momma’s Meatloaf with potato puree and French beans with brown butter and almonds; Saltine Cracker-Crusted Cod with steamed broccolini, homemade tartar sauce, and lemon; and Chicken Pot Pie with carrots, peas, and puff pastry.
For dessert, options will include the Warm Brownie (baked in a cast iron skillet) with fresh mint chocolate chip ice cream and mocha crème anglaise, as well as cakes (Carrot Cake, 5-Layer Dark Chocolate Cake, Coconut Cake, and New York Cheesecake), pies (Apple Pie with salted caramel sauce, Blueberry Pie with crème anglaise, and Lemon Meringue), and ice cream made in-house that you can get by the scoop or in a sundae/banana split.
The diner will also look to serve the neighborhood with a full-service bar, featuring classic cocktails, wine, and beer.
With this new era in ownership comes an updated look for Old John’s that mixes timelines and brings a sense of continued service to the restaurant – as well as some welcomed nostalgia.
Working with longtime friend and interior designer Martin Heinz, Skibar made sure to preserve and respect the diner’s rich history by keeping the space’s integrity and key American diner elements intact, like the turn-of-the-century black and white pinwheel mosaic floor, original tin ceilings, and 1950s soda fountain.
The color palette was devised to soften the environment and introduce some charming classic colors from the past: white and gray marble details mix with classic New York subway tile, and Old John’s famous location map was restored in a 1960s chromatic palette.
Minty green bar stools and the warm mustard ceiling colors evoke a nod to the tastes of the past, as do the classic milk glass pendants and the arte moderne light-up sign board that hangs over the bar. Longtime customers will also recognize the antique neon sign from the original Old John’s Luncheonette, and colorful graphics in Old John’s original Tudor font and 70s colors have been designed to reconnect the restaurant’s long-standing customers to the space. Both indoor and outdoor seating will be available, along with takeout and/or delivery.
Skibar started working at Old John’s in 1984, at the age of 16, after emigrating from Bolivia – it was his first and only job in New York. He started as a delivery boy and worked his way up to a short order cook during his six year tenure, before the restaurant was forced to close in its original location due to development on the block (the diner was originally located at 66th and Broadway, where it operated for about 40 years). Old John’s would eventually relocate to its current location on West 67th Street – near Amsterdam Avenue – a few years later, becoming a neighborhood mainstay for the next 30 years.
Skibar moved on and opened a number of his own restaurants, eventually forming Toloache Restaurant Group. Its portfolio today includes a handful of spots in Manhattan and Queens, including: Toloache (two locations), Tacuba (two locations), Coppelia, El Fish Shack (two locations and one opening soon on the UWS), and Cuba. When the diner closed at the end of September, Louis renegotiated the lease terms, ensuring the legacy of a diner that is near and dear to his heart. In addition to resurrecting the space, Louis has also brought many of the diner’s former staff back too – like one of the original 67th Street crew members, Kathy Dellinger, who handles the social media and photography for the new spot.
Old John’s Diner is located at 148 West 67th Street in New York City. The restaurant operates daily and will start with dinner hours (Sun-Thurs, 4:00PM-10:00PM, Fri & Sat, 4:00PM-11:00PM); hours will be extended to include lunch (12:00PM) and breakfast (7:00AM) in the weeks following opening. For more information, please visit www.iloveoldjohns.com, call 212-874-2700, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the restaurant on Instagram (@iloveoldjohns). Reservations are available via Resy, and delivery is available via Seamless, Grubhub, DoorDash, Caviar, and Uber Eats.