Disappearing Diners: Capturing NYC’s Ever-Changing Restaurant Scene

Curators’ Corner

Disappearing Diners: Capturing NYC’s Ever-Changing Restaurant Scene

Once home to more than 1,000 diners, New York City now only has 200, as rents and national franchises take their toll on diner owners.

Despite the lean budgets and lower-wage staff that typically enable diners to be more profitable than higher-end restaurants and chains, New Yorkers, it turns out, just don’t dig them like they used to. It’s a sad tune, but the truth seems to be that millennials typically prefer scrolling through their iPhones and ordering online over lingering under the fluorescent lights of an old-school eatery.

Having been headquartered in Manhattan for more than 50 years, Duggal has had a front row seat to New York City’s ever-changing food scene. So too has photographer Riley Arthur, who is on a mission to visually preserve the last remaining diners before they are gone.

“I see this project as a living archive,” Arthur told the Huffington Post. “Each diner is aesthetically unique, attracting its own crowd of colorful regulars. In a fast-moving city I think many feel comfort in these 50-year-old institutions that have stood the test of time. As some diners are at risk I am rushing to document as many as possible.”

So far, Arthur has been to 71 diners, including the famous Seinfeld hangoutTom’s Restaurant on Broadway. She has captured not only the classic atmospheres and cozy comfort foods that diners are known for, but also the variety of characters who tend to frequent them.

In a way, photography is the only means of capturing a city in constant flux. Take a photo of any NYC block or storefront, and there’s a good chance your image will transition to archive within a few years. Need some inspiration? Check out Riley’s photos below, and follow her on Instagram at @dinersofnyc.

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Images © Riley Arthur