Venerable New York City lunch counter Burger Heaven will close its last location this week after more than four generations and 75 years of business in Manhattan. Dimitri Dellis, one of the three family members who owns the restaurant, tells the New York Times that the once-thriving chain was unable to keep up with the rapidly evolving food delivery landscape in New York City. The final location of Burger Heaven — located at 804 Lexington Avenue, at 62nd Street on the UES — will serve its last cheeseburger deluxe this Friday, February 28.
The chain of lunch counters dates back to 1943, when founder Evans Cyprus opened the first location of Beefburger on West 57th Street. By 1974, the restaurant had rebranded as Burger Heaven due to trademark issues and eventually expanded the brand to eight Manhattan lunch counters over the next 40 years.
At its peak, Burger Heaven functioned as a social destination for both the Midtown lunch crowd and New York City’s celebrities, including Barbara Walters and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. It’s a place where tuna salad sandwiches are made with expensive, high-grade canned fish and burgers are described using words like grade-A, rather than grass-fed or organic.
In 2009, Burger Heaven still maintained six New York locations, but by 2012 the restaurant chain had closed all but three of its locations. It’s one of many longtime diners to close in the city. Since 2014, at least 15 diners and lunch counters have closed in New York due to rising rent prices and lucrative offers to sell.
Dellis, whose family owns the property, largely blames the rise of delivery services for the end of the restaurant, according to the Times. Many restaurants have pointed to delivery fees from platforms like Seamless for their closures, but Burger Heaven says it’s less about the apps — and more about the culture of delivery itself. When it comes to lunch, “young people want grab-and-go,” Dellis says.