Cup & Saucer

New York, New York, USA

Closed 2017

The Disappointed Tourist: Cup & Saucer, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

Rent increases put this diner out of business in 2017 after over 70 years serving the neighborhood. I actually made two paintings of the Cup and Saucer, the first one was mysteriously “lost” by Fedex returning from Milwaukee and I had to paint another one. It later turned out that Fedex sold my painting from overstock (despite having made a “good faith effort” to locate it when I notified them of the loss) to someone in Las Vegas and I ended up having to buy back my own painting. So now there are two. The painting is based on a photograph by Robert Sietsema that accompanied an article about the closing in

We used to go there all the time, when we lived in Matt’s studio on Forsyth Street. I remember it in the 80s, when I lived on Ludlow and East Broadway. In the early morning it was always filled with workers, and a late scattering of local residents, like myself. A Chinese bus business recently moved into the neighborhood, and travelers seeking a cheap ride to all parts South stopped for takeout. I was happy in the thought that they were thriving. It was a Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner diner, run by two Greek guys, John Vasilopoulos and Nick Castanos, who always surprised us with leftover glazed doughnuts, in our late takeout breakfasts. Either John or Nick or both were always working behind the post WWII counter with its red round swirly seats, two young Chinese women ready to take orders and a Mexican guy helping on the grill and with deliveries. It was a tiny cozy place, always open and cheerful, a little kitchen theater. One sunny morning, I rounded the corner on Eldridge Street, looking forward to my “Sammy”: 2 scrambled eggs, bacon and cheese on a buttered toasted Kaiser roll. I walked past the school yard nearing The Cup and Saucer’s windows that wrapped around to East Broadway. They were still and dark. I was disappointed, they were on vacation. I didn’t register they were gone, until I pressed my face against the windows and saw the place had really been abandoned. The life taken out of it. I cried right there and then. Just thinking about it makes me sad. Valerie S.