Miss Albany Diner

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Miss Albany Diner
(formerly Lil's Diner)
A single-story building in the shape of a railroad car, with an Art Deco facade in cream and maroon stripes situated next to a taller brick building
Miss Albany Diner in April 2010
Location 893 Broadway, Albany, New York
Coordinates 42°39′46″N 73°44′41″W / 42.66278°N 73.74472°W / 42.66278; -73.74472Coordinates: 42°39′46″N 73°44′41″W / 42.66278°N 73.74472°W / 42.66278; -73.74472
Built 1941
Architect Paterson Vehicle Company (Paterson, New Jersey)
Architectural style Art Deco
NRHP reference # 00001278
Added to NRHP November 6, 2000

Miss Albany Diner (formerly known as Lil's Diner) is a historic diner in Albany, New York, built in 1941 and located at 893 Broadway, one of the oldest streets in Albany. Used as a set for the 1987 film Ironweed, which starred Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep,[1] it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 2000.[2]


In 1929 the site was occupied by a lunch cart that provided hot food to workers in the area. It was succeeded by a prefabricated diner built by the Ward & Dickinson Dining Car Company. The current building was erected in 1941 and originally called Lil's Diner. It is a "Silk City Diner model,[3] manufactured by the Paterson Vehicle Company in Paterson, New Jersey, one of the leading diner manufacturers of the time. The building is typical of the prefabricated diners that were common from the 1920s through the 1940s, built to resemble railroad cars and incorporating elements of Art Deco design. With its interior of cherry wood and porcelain enamelled steel and a geometrically tiled floor, it is one of the few pre-World War II diners in the United States in near-original condition.[4] The interior was depicted by the photorealist artist Ralph Goings in his 1993 painting Miss Albany Diner.[5]

The diner changed hands over the years and was called successively Elaine's, the Firehouse Diner, and the Street Car Diner. Its current name was shared by a chain of several now defunct Miss Albany Diners owned by Stillman Pitts which were popular in Albany during the 1920s,[6] one of which (on Central Avenue) is explicitly mentioned in William Kennedy's novel Roscoe.[7] When Kennedy's earlier novel Ironweed was made into a film in 1986, the diner was restored for use as one of the film's principal locations and given the name "Miss Albany Diner".[1] At the time, a product placement bidding war ensued between Pepsi Cola and Coca-Cola over whose logo would be on the top of the diner.[8]

In 1988, after the filming of Ironweed ended, the diner was bought by Cliff Brown and his wife Jane. Cliff Brown, a former Albany resident and retired insurance salesman for New York Life, gave it the name used in the film, which it has retained to the present day.[4] At Brown's initiative, the building was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on November 6, 2000 and won a Preservation Merit Award in 2002 from the Historic Albany Foundation.[2][9] In late 2009, Brown was 82 and wanted to retire. The diner was put up for sale,[10] but as of 2010, it had still not been sold and continued to be run by Jane Brown.[11]

In February 2012, two years after Clifford Brown's death, the diner was finally bought by Matthew Baumgartner, the head of a property company that owns a nearby beer garden and several other restaurants in Albany. Baumgartner said that the diner's structure would be retained when he and his partners develop the site, but that there were no plans to run it as a diner. Jane Brown and her son retained the rights to the "Miss Albany Diner" name and its signature recipes. The Miss Albany served its last meal as a diner on February 10, 2012.[12][13]

The former diner is now the site of Tanpopo Ramen and Sake Bar.

The diner's restaurant[edit]

The Miss Albany Diner served breakfast, lunch and coffee on a "cash only" basis and was open Tuesday through Sunday until 2:15 pm, with both waiter and take-out service.[11] Its signature dishes included:

The dishes were created by the owners' son Bill Brown, who had been a chef at the diner for many years.[17] Mad Irish Toast was named one of the "Best Bites of 2002" by the Chicago Sun-Times.[18]

See also[edit]

For other historic diners in the same architectural style see:


  1. ^ a b Di Nicola, Dan, "Ironweed Producers Hampered by Weather, Anachronistic Sets", Schenectady Gazette, February 6, 1987, p. 30. Retrieved 22 September 2010.
  2. ^ a b National Register of Historic Places, Listings: November 24, 2000. Retrieved 21 September 2010.
  3. ^ Gutman, Richard (2000). American Diner Then and Now. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 259. ISBN 0-8018-6536-0.
  4. ^ a b Liquori, Donna (1991-10-06). "Miss Albany Diner Turns a Ripe 50". Times Union (Albany). Hearst Newspapers. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
  5. ^ Louis K. Meisel Gallery, Ralph Goings: Miss Albany Diner, 1993 Archived 2009-06-28 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 21 September 2010.
  6. ^ Rittner, Don, Albany Revisited, Arcadia Publishing, 2008, p. 68. ISBN 0-7385-5652-1
  7. ^ Kennedy, William, Roscoe, Penguin Books, 2002, p. 26. ISBN 0-14-200173-2 ("He drove to the Miss Albany Diner on Central Avenue, open all night, found it dark. A sign in the window reported, 'No Food'.")
  8. ^ Di Nicola, Dan, "Tacky Trend: Advertising Playing Big Role in Movies" Daily Gazette, July 5, 1990, p. 9 (Supplement). Retrieved 22 September 2010.
  9. ^ Historic Albany Foundation, Preservation Merit Awards - 2002: Miss Albany Diner Archived 2010-12-04 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 21 September 2010.
  10. ^ Churchill, Chris, "Diner for sale, hold the change", Albany Times Union, November 12, 2009. Retrieved 22 September 2010.
  11. ^ a b See the diner's official Facebook page. Retrieved 22 September 2010.
  12. ^ Eligon, John (9 February 2013). "Throwback in Albany Will Serve Last Meal". New York Times. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  13. ^ Barnes, Steve (9 February 2012). "'Miss Albany Diner' producers undaunted by sale, closure". Albany Times-Union. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  14. ^ a b c Bryson, Lew, New York Breweries, Stackpole Books, 2003, p. 96. ISBN 0-8117-2817-X
  15. ^ a b Williams, China and Blond, Becca, New York State, Lonely Planet, 2004, p. 189. ISBN 1-74104-125-2
  16. ^ Albany Times Union, "Ah, Miss Albany", November 20, 2009. Retrieved 22 September 2002.
  17. ^ Cavalcante, Joseph, "Where else can you find a good meal at any hour?", The Business Journal (Albany), June 9, 2000. Retrieved 22 September 2010.
  18. ^ Ontiveros, Sue, "Best Bites of 2002: Beguiling and delicious, these are the winners for our year", Chicago Sun-Times, January 2, 2003. Retrieved via subscription 22 September 2002.

External links[edit]