Archive for May, 2007

For the past three months I’ve been living in Brooklyn, in a very slowly gentrifying area between Crown Heights and Prospect Heights. Historically, I understand it to have been a largely West Indian neighborhood, though I’m not sure who was there before that. Presently there are more whites and young professionals slowly moving in, myself included though only passing through (gentrification in process). For me, it’s a blessing to live here — beautiful brownstones lining the streets and enough amenities within walking distance where I don’t feel like I have to break an arm and leg to find groceries, coffee shops, boutiques, and ethnic restaurants. Not to mention easy access to the Brooklyn Museum, Main Library, Botanical Garden and Prospect Park.

One of the coolest neighborhood spots I learned about is Tom’s Diner, located at the corner of Washington Ave and Sterling Place (it even has its own blog!). They serve excellent food, and you get to dine within an atmosphere of a traditional and authentic feel of a diner. The owners knew nearly everyone, young and old, walking in and out of the restaurant. You could sense that it was a place people cherished.

Suzanne Vega fans may already know that her song Tom’s Diner references this very diner. The song also appeared on the soundrack of 90’s flick ‘Untamed Heart’.

Tom’s Diner opened in 1936, and it is a testement for this restaurant to have remained a strong neighborhood establishment through all those years. I learned that in the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, neighborhood residents and patrons held hands to protect the diner from the riots, looters and violence resulting from King’s death. Tom’s Diner is the kind of place that holds together the fabric of urban neighborhoods. These kind of places require an openess and generosity from the owners, who offer a place where individuals and families can commune. It’s the kind of place that keep communities intact and thriving, even through times of economic hardship or social unrest.