A New York Minute: It’s All Greek To Me

9 Oct

October 9, 2015


Hey! We’re back with a New York Minute for you. Some of you out there may still remember those. Anyway, buckle up and away we go.

They’re filming a movie a couple of blocks away from me. I never did find out if it was a movie or TV show, but it was filmed at a Greek diner and the scene they shot over the course of a week was a police standoff. The actors were not familiar to me, and judging by the lack of autograph seekers or publicity they weren’t big names. There was your standard plainclothes cop with a shoulder holster, your standard female FBI agent in a severe black suit, and one- and only one- member of a SWAT team in full camouflage and armor. (I later found out that it was The Blacklist. I’ve never seen the show, but I understand that as of today the episode hasn’t aired yet.)

For about a week there were movie trailers and equipment littering the area and taking up a lot of valuable parking spots, and then one day they were all gone.

This isn’t the first time they’ve filmed a movie in my area. Aside from Saturday Night Fever, which I covered in a very early New York Minute, they also filmed a Steven Seagal film around here in the early 90’s, Out for Justice, I think. I’m pretty sure it was the one where Seagal wore a beret and a sleeveless vest and sleeveless shirt combo. That was the outfit that best showed off his, um, acting skills, I believe. Anyway, please don’t ask me to go back and watch it.

out for justiceWhile that was filming, I ended up with my Dad in Williamsburg, which is about as far from my end of Brooklyn as you can get and still be in the borough. Another movie was filming there at the same time as the Seagal opus, and whatever it was, it was a small indie effort. My dad, with a little superior smirk, gave the crew a dig and said “not like the Steven Seagal movie they’re shooting by me, huh?” That may be the strangest piece of reflected glory I ever heard.

But back to the present, and the Greek diner. The diner isn’t very good, which is why I won’t give them any free publicity, but it is a great example of 1970’s architecture. It looks now the same way it looked when I was a kid, right down to the ripped carpets and stained seats. Greek diners are a New York staple. In fact, the official NYC store sells ceramic copies of the iconic Greek blue coffee cups, the one with the Greek urns on it. In fact, I once worked with a guy who called every diner “that Greek place.” This caused a lot of confusion when he wanted to meet me at the “that Greek place” and I never found it, despite actually standing right in front of it. Why was it so hard to find? The “Greek” diner proudly had a big red Albanian flag waving in the window.

Greek diners have been New York staples since the 1950’s, and they are distinct from the tin clad railroad car looking diners you see all across America. They are noted for the large rotating pastry displays you can usually find right as you walk in. According to the New York Times, so you may want to take this with a grain of salt, most New York diners are owned by people of Greek decent. And while you can always get a range of Greek food, they serve it all, from Matzoh ball soup to cheeseburgers. Come to think of it, I can’t count the number of times I’ve had that exact combination.

From my part of Bensonhurst, I am just 10 minutes away from two very good Greek diners, and 5 minutes away from the not-so-hot one where the movie was just filmed. And that may be a touch ironic, since the Greek population of Brooklyn has been on the decline for years. But the diners are still going strong.

This has been your New York Minute. All this diner talk has made me hungry. Maybe I’ll watch Out for Justice to lose my appetite.


This post is, by a happy coincidence, appearing on my father’s birthday. Happy Birthday Dad! We all miss you.

An audio version of this story recently appeared in the amazing FlashPulp website. Check them out for awesomeness and goodies!

16 Responses to “A New York Minute: It’s All Greek To Me”

  1. Matt Cowan October 9, 2015 at 6:36 am #

    I think that one was Out For Justice. I used to watch every Martial Arts movie I could get my hands on back then.


    • bmj2k October 9, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

      I’ve seen more than a few but only one on the big screen. It was a van Damme film.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Matt Cowan October 9, 2015 at 11:16 pm #

        The jump-spin kick Van Damm unleashed in Death Warrant drove me to teach myself how to do it when my Tae Kwon Do instructor said I wasn’t ready for it yet. It ended up becoming my signature maneuver the board break kick they had me do during my black belt test.


  2. Mac of BIOnighT October 9, 2015 at 9:49 am #

    This made me hungry, too ;-P I was at a Greek restaurant only once many years ago, but it was all delicious. It was for lunch and they had what here in Italy we call “fixed menu” (I have no idea what you call it in the US – it means you can only choose from one or two dishes for every course, the price is fixed and low, it’s made for workers etc). Unfortunately, all the dishes from the “fixed menu” were no good for a vegetarian, but when I told them, the cook prepared some stuff especially for me for the same low price, which was extremely kind of him 🙂 Boy, now I’m really hungry 😦


    • bmj2k October 9, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

      We call it that here too.

      A Greek diner is distinct from a Greek restaurant. Greek diner refers only to ownership. I sometimes eat Italian food there. There are plenty of Greek restaurants too.


      • Mac of BIOnighT October 9, 2015 at 1:36 pm #

        Oh, that’s odd… so what’s the purpose of specifying the nationality? o__O


        • bmj2k October 9, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

          I have no clue how it started.
          There are diners that serve all kinds of food.
          Then there are Greek diners that serve all kinds of food but also Greek food and are owned by Greeks. Most people do not order the Greek food. Coffee, breakfast like eggs and bacon, burgers, steaks, etc, are the usual fare but you can get chicken parmigiana, meat loaf, or anything else. Some of these emphasize the Greek aspect by using Greek names like Mt. Olympus diner and fake Greek fonts on their signs but they are still no more Greek than any other diner.
          Greek restaurants specialize exclusively in Greek food.
          This is a Greek diner, owned by Greeks, that I go to a lot. (It isn’t the bad one mentioned in the blog.) http://www.yelp.com/biz/vegas-diner-brooklyn-2


          • Mac of BIOnighT October 9, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

            I see… that is strange indeed. By the way, diners do not exist here, we have restaurant and bars, but no diners, which I think of as a sort of mix of the two?


            • bmj2k October 9, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

              I’d say it’s 90% restaurant, 10% bar at most, usually less. You can order drinks but there isn’t a “bar area,” no seats around the bar. The drinks are usually made behind the hostess area. It is very, very casual dining.


              • Mac of BIOnighT October 10, 2015 at 10:19 pm #

                In bars here you can often have a panino (something similar to your sandwiches) and sometimes other stuff to eat, they’re not just for drinks (though the smaller ones are). But yes, still different from your diners…


                • bmj2k October 11, 2015 at 12:02 am #

                  I sort of compare diners here to English pubs, if you reverse the food to beer ratio.


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