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4 Abandoned US Diners That Today are Considered Modern Heritage

Darko Nanevski

Most of the time, when a place like a bar or a restaurant, or a coffee shop closes, is either bought and reopened by someone and turned into something else, or it remains closed for good.

Anyone who has ever managed or worked in this kind of place knows that running an establishment like this is pretty hard, especially in the big cities.

However, sometimes, there are exceptions to this rule. Every now and then, for some reason, a place can become so recognizable, long after it stopped working, that is now an inseparable part of the pop culture. These four diners are privileged to be seen today as urban museums and integral part of the city.

1. Johnie’s Coffee Shop

At the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, LA, California is where Johnie’s Coffee Shop proudly stands. Designed by architects Louis Armet and Eldon Davis, it is one of the prime and most iconic examples of Googie architecture, a style extremely popular in the 1950s and 1960s.

Johnie’s Coffee Shop Restaurant on Miracle Mile in Los Angeles, famous for being used as a location for many movies. Author: Michael Mooney CC BY 2.0

Johnie’s Coffee Shop Restaurant on Miracle Mile in Los Angeles, famous for being used as a location for many movies. Author: Michael Mooney CC BY 2.0

It didn’t become to be known as Johnie’s until 1966. When the place first opened in 1956 it was called Romeo’s Times Square, and after a few years, it became Ram’s.

Johnie’s Coffee Shop Restaurant, 2006. Author: JohnnyRokkit CC BY-SA 2.0

Johnie’s Coffee Shop Restaurant, 2006. Author: JohnnyRokkit CC BY-SA 2.0

The establishment closed in 2000 after being purchased by the Gold family in 1994. Today Johnie’s is easily recognizable and well known as a favorite among filmmakers. It has been used as a shooting location in many popular movies, including The Big Lebowski, Reservoir Dogs, and American History X.

The southeastern corner of Johnie’s Coffee Shop on Wilshire Boulevard, 2009. Author: ChildofMidnight CC BY 3.0

The southeastern corner of Johnie’s Coffee Shop on Wilshire Boulevard, 2009. Author: ChildofMidnight CC BY 3.0

With its huge neon sign, glass walls and sharply angled roof it’s declared a Googie icon and a modern national treasure. It truly is an irreplaceable part of Los Angeles.

2. The Moondance Diner

The Moondance Diner in May 2007. Author: Jean-Michel Clajot CC BY-SA 3.0

The Moondance Diner in May 2007. Author: Jean-Michel Clajot CC BY-SA 3.0

Located between Grand and Canal Street, at 80 Sixth Avenue in SoHo, New York, this former diner became famous after several appearances in films and tv shows, like Friends, Sex and the City and  2002 Spider – Man. It opened in 1933 as Holland Tunnel Diner.

Its first closing was announced in 2007, with a demolition date set on August 1. But with the help of preservationist and neighborhood residents, who organized benefits, The Moondance Diner somehow survived. It was restored and repaired by March 2008 and kept being open for business six days a week.

But with the downturn in the local economy, it became impossible for the restaurant to keep working. It finally closed in March 2012, leaving the future of The Moondance Diner still unclear.

3. Munson Diner

Munson Diner, September 2012. Author: Vonsky87 CC BY-SA 3.0

Munson Diner, September 2012. Author: Vonsky87 CC BY-SA 3.0

Liberty’s Munson Diner was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. This, now historic diner, with its typical look of the diners from the  1940s and 1950s for six decades operated at the corner of 11th Avenue and 49th Street in Hell’s Kitchen before being lifted and moved to its current location at Liberty in May 2005. During its heyday, Munson was a gathering place for all sorts of people, from laborers, dandies, and regular folks, to even mobsters.

The diner has made an appearance in American Express commercials, multiple Kojak episodes, and most famously, in the Seinfeld episode “Bizzaro Jerry”. After being opened and reopened several times, today this unique diner is faced with extinction and waits to be saved.

4. The diner from the movie Looper

The diner from Looper. Author: breauxtography CC BY 2.0

The diner from Looper. Author: breauxtography CC BY 2.0

It’s cheating with this one because this diner never actually existed in real life. This diner was specifically brought and used for the purposes of filming a scene in the movie.

The 2012 time traveling action film Looper was filmed in and around New Orleans, and the diner located in Thibodeaux, just an hour out of the city was left there after filming ended and it can still be found standing there.

Even if the film just came out a few years ago, this abandoned film sets already attracts many visitors and without a doubt, it will become a heritage in the near future.