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A Diverse Crowd at Third Avenue Stalwart Joe Jr.

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All throughout Greasy Spoons Week, food writers and friends of Eater will write about their favorite diners. Up first: Nick Solares, Serious Eats Meat Bureau Chief and the publisher of Beef Aficionado.

[All photos by Nick Solares]

Calvin Trillin famously stated that anyone who doesn't think that their home town has the best hamburger is a sissy. I feel the same way about diners. If you don't think your neighborhood diner is the best, then you should move. And a neighborhood without a diner isn't really a neighborhood at all.

In our increasingly stratified society, the local diner is one of the few remaining unitary institutions, arguably one of the last vestiges of democracy. The diner attracts all classes, creeds and cultures and plays no favorites while offering comfort food for the 100 percent.

None more so than Joe Jr., my local diner situated on the corner of 16th Street and Third Avenue, which is of course, the greatest diner in the world. I have been eating there for well over a decade, and it was the first place I wrote about professionally for Serious Eats — a review of their justifiably lauded cheeseburger.

Not much has changed along the way. The room is still a kluge of worn formica and cheap wood paneling in various shades of faded brown and tan, and the griddle and kitchen cabinets are dented and worn to a dull patina. But the place has more humanity and vibrancy than any chain restaurant or corporate coffee shop could ever offer by design.

[All photos by Nick Solares]

The crowd at Joe Jr. is as diverse as one would hope to find. High School students sit side by side at breakfast as if the broadest of swaths weren't cut between them; the privileged attendees of Friends Seminary, one of the most exclusive and expensive schools in New York City co-mingle with students of Washington Irving, a school that performs so poorly that it is scheduled for closure by the DOE.

Local blue-collar workers from Con Edison and Beth Israel sit with future filmmakers and SVA students and police academy cadets. And let's not forget the saints and sinners — there are two churches on this block, but there was once a methadone clinic nearby, and even though it closed years ago, the occasional junkies still seem to wander in from time to time.

Joe Jr. welcomes all. It might not offer salvation or sobriety, but it can offer you a plate of eggs or a cheeseburger, a newspaper and a kind word. Sometimes that is more than enough.

Joe Jr
167 3rd Ave, Gramercy

Bio: Nick Solares is a New York City based food writer and photographer. He is the publisher Beef Aficionado and the Serious Eats Meat Bureau Chief as well as special features writer for AM New York. Twitter @beefaficionado.