Local attorney Ronald Hariri is working with former Mets center fielder Lenny Dykstra and this columnist to relocate the longtime diner to Riverhead on Long Island. It will likely reopen as a brewery and diner.
“Similar to ‘Nails’ [Dykstra’s nickname], the Shalimar Diner is a piece of Queens and NYC history,” said Hariri, who was raised on egg creams at the diner living in Forest Hills.
This columnist worked to save other classic diners, such as New York City’s Moondance Diner and Cheyenne Diner, by brokering deals to have them transported on a flatbed.
“Nails is proud to announce that I have joined forces with ‘Diner Man Michael Perlman’ and good friend and attorney Ron Hariri to be part of saving the iconic Rego Park Shalimar Diner,” Dykstra said.
Patrons and preservationists alike were disheartened when the Shalimar Diner officially closed its doors in November 2018 after 45 years in business. When demolition plans were announced last spring, there was an effort to spare the building. The asking price for the classic diner was zero dollars, but a party of interest had to come forward to transport it and fund the rigging cost.
“I hope that the Shalimar is welcomed in its new community and isn't forgotten in ours,” said Richard Thornhill. “Preservation isn't just about saving places where treaties were signed and presidents lived, but it's about our social history. These places are a look into our past and how we lived.”
Diners were manufactured to move, and the Shalimar was prefabricated by the Kullman Dining Car Company. In 1974, it was delivered in sections on a flatbed truck. It became a neighborhood fixture, and its classic look has been featured in the CBS drama “Blue Bloods” and the 2016 film “The Wolf of Wall Street” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill.
“The Shalimar was the place to go after disco dancing with my girlfriend in Manhattan,” said Marilyn Lober Colucci. “We would have our breakfast usually after midnight. The food was delicious, but the best was sitting in a booth where the little jukebox was so we could play our songs and just have a girl talk.
“Just think how many people went there to eat and have a conversation, and maybe some people fell in love there,” she added. My hope is that when people walk into the diner today, more memories will be made.”
When Peter Arato was in college, he dated a girl from Forest Hills who loved a late night snack at the Shalimar. For him, it was a burger or a toasted corn muffin.
“We had many fun times as well as deep discussions,” he said. “Classic diners dotted Queens at one time, but with the demise of Flagship and the original Georgia Diner, I wonder if my grandchild will ever experience this uniquely American treat. Like classic Jewish delis, they seem to be disappearing in front of our eyes.”
Arato hopes the Shalimar will be preserved as close to its original incarnation.
“I want to agonize again over its 20 pages of choices, decide which of their breakfast items to order late at night, and examine the classic cocktails on those cheesy paper placemats,” he said.
Alicia Venezia was raised in Queens, and eating as diners was a tradition.
“Diners have their own uniqueness about them, and it’s very different from your typical restaurant,” she said.