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Another New York Diner Turns Off the Grill, a Victim of Rising Rents

Mr. Vasilopoulos and Mr. Tragaras have owned the restaurant since 1988, but Cup & Saucer has occupied the space since the early 1940s, Mr. Vasilopoulos said. In March, they learned their $8,200 a month lease would increase by $7,600 per month. Attempts to negotiate with the landlord, 99 Canal Realty, failed, they said.

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John Vasilopoulos with customers on Sunday, a day before the restaurant’s closing. Credit An Rong Xu for The New York Times

“It would be nice if we stayed another five years, but it happens,” Mr. Vasilopoulos said. “We’re not the first ones.”

Two calls to 99 Canal Realty seeking comment were disconnected last week.

As the news spread that the greasy spoon would be closing, the diner was inundated with well-wishers.

Haifa Olsen moved to the neighborhood a year ago from London and went to Cup & Saucer weekly for blueberry pancakes.

“I’m from Europe, so for us pancakes are very exciting,” Ms. Olsen said Sunday, adding, “It is a little New York institution, and being a foreigner, it really gives you that New York flavor that you don’t have very many places.”

The diner sits just off the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge along the border of Chinatown and the Lower East Side, at the corner of Eldridge and Canal Streets. It opened in the early 1940s, when the area was dominated by immigrant families and businesses. It has had three sets of owners, Mr. Vasilopoulos said.

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Like the rest of the décor, the bar stools have remained much the same since Cup and Saucer’s opening. Credit An Rong Xu for The New York Times

Both he and Mr. Tragaras are from Greece and immigrated in their youth. Mr. Vasilopoulos’s brother is married to Mr. Tragaras’s sister. They now live in Astoria, Queens, “with the other Greeks,” Mr. Vasilopoulos said.

Through it all, the diner, including the décor, has remained reliably the same.

“Do you see the cup and saucer on the floor, and the stools?” Mr. Vasilopoulos asked, pointing to an image on the tiles and faded mustard spinning stools. “They’re original.”

Mr. Tragaras said: “We had to adjust the menu a little bit because it used to be just regular breakfast. We went into paninis; we went into wraps. But we don’t have pastrami anymore.”

And the customers returned again and again.

“We keep the place clean, have fast service and good, quality food with a good amount, so people love us,” Mr. Vasilopoulos said. “But we didn’t know we had so many friends.”

Dan Teran worked on Eldridge Street for six years before his office moved to the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. He came back for one last breakfast.

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Nick Tragaras, who has been an owner of Cup & Saucer since 1988, served a meal. Credit An Rong Xu for The New York Times

“It’s the end of an era,” he said.

His typical order was the corned beef hash with rye toast or bacon, egg and cheese on a bagel. “It’s the exact same cast of characters back there,” he said. “The people who work here are amazing.”

In their 30 years of working together, Mr. Vasilopoulos and Mr. Tragaras stuck to one rule: Mr. Tragaras worked the line, and Mr. Vasilopoulos stayed at the front of the diner.

“I worked here, he’s worked there, and that’s why we never argued,” Mr. Tragaras said. “I have my post, and he has his.”

The closing of Cup & Saucer is another sign of what some consider the end of classic New York diners. The culture of comfort food, like well-done French fries and triple-decker sandwiches, is diminishing, said Bob Juergens, who has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years. His favorite menu item was the turkey club sandwich, which provided “two meals in one.”

“It’s like an oasis here,” Mr. Juergens said. “You can’t find diners like this around here. I understand gentrification — I don’t think it’s this evil thing — but certain things like this you have to preserve.”

The owners plan to take the summer off to regroup and possibly look for another space.

“We have to do something,” Mr. Vasilopoulos said.

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Source: New York Times

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