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A 55-Year-Old Queens Diner’s New Drive-In Movie Theater Is Selling Out in Minutes

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Plus, the Lower East Side has a new Belgian-style fries destination — and more intel

Cars are lined up behind each other in a drive-in movie theater with a large projection screen up front
The Bel Aire Diner’s newly-established drive-in movie theater
Ron Adar /Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

A Queens diner’s parking lot is currently one of the go-to destinations in NYC

Astoria staple the Bel Aire Diner has quickly become one of the hottest tickets in town — because of a new drive-in theater. The 55-year-old diner launched the movie theater in its parking lot a little more than a week ago, and tickets sell out in minutes, the Wall Street Journal reports. At its most recent event — two Saturday night screenings of the 1993 comedy film the Sandlot — 80 tickets sold out just three minutes after they were released on Friday.

The diner allows 40 cars in its parking lot at a time, and customers can order using the diner’s app or website, according to Gothamist, which first reported on the diner becoming a temporary outdoor theater. Diner staffers then deliver the food to the car based on the license plate. Bel Aire held its first official screening, Dirty Dancing on May 13, shortly after Gov. Andrew Cuomo lifted the ban on outdoor movie theaters. Due to the popularity, the diner owners plan to have two movie screenings each week. The diner will announce movie schedules two weeks in advance and tickets will be sold on the restaurant’s website.

Bel Aire’s popularity signals a renewed interest in drive-in theaters during the coronavirus pandemic. The format is better equipped to allow social distancing while still giving people a chance for an outing beyond a walk in the park or getting takeout. The pop-up that organizes Bel Aire’s movie screenings, Long Island Movie Nights, has already received requests from establishments across New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

In other news

— Fine dining chefs Eric Ripert and Jean-Georges Vongerichten are thinking about ways to reopen their restaurants. While Ripert likely won’t open seafood destination Le Bernardin until September, Vongerichten has reopened hits Perry Street and Mercer Kitchen for delivery and takeout, and plans to reopen Nougatine, Jo-Jo, and ABC Kitchen soon.

— The Lower East Side now has a Belgian-style fries shop. Bel-Fries, located at 132 Ludlow Street, near Rivington Street, is open daily from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. for takeout only. Expect fries with a variety of toppings like yuzu mayo, curry mango, and black truffle mayo.

— Signage from East Village icon Gem Spa came down over the weekend, yet another reminder of the end of an era.

— Michelin-starred Nordic restaurant Aquavit is reopening today with a new takeout program: Swedish smorgasbord packages. The spreads include a variety of herring, gravlax with hovmastar sauce, potatoes, cheese, flatbread, and more, according to a restaurant spokesperson. Orders can be picked up at the restaurant from Monday through Saturday, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

— Due to an ongoing meat supply shortage, crowd-favorite barbecue chain Mighty Quinn’s has had to raise prices on its brisket and burnt ends, the restaurant announced on its website.

— The perfect way to get through the day:

Bel Aire Diner

31-91 21st Street, Queens, NY 11106 (718) 721-3160 Visit Website