Riverhead Diner & Grill Celebrates 80th Anniversary

Do you have memories to share about the diner, located on East Main Street? Share your stories here, and attend a free event on Oct. 23 to reminisce about stories of Riverhead in years gone by.

One of Riverhead's most beloved landmarks is celebrating a historic birthday -- the Riverhead Diner & Grill is marking its 80th anniversary.

To commemorate decades of history, an event will be held on Oct. 23, from 4 to 6 p.m. to celebrate the Riverhead Diner & Grill's 80th anniversary, when the Landmarks Preservation Commission hosts "Remembering Riverhead."

The afternoon of story sharing and reminiscing about Riverhead and its rich history is free, with coffee, tea, and light refreshments, a photo display -- and a treasure chest of vibrant memories about Riverhead's storied past.

The Riverhead Diner & Grill, a classic 1930s stainless steel diner, has been a downtown landmark since 1932, and a centerpiece of the newly created Main Street National Register Historic District, Richard Wines, chairman of Riverhead's Landmarks Preservation Commission, said.

"For me, one of the things that makes the newly created Main Street National Register Historic District so unique is the wide variety of architectural styles represented," Wines said. "Riverhead is blessed to have every style from the Greek Revival of the 1840s to the mid-century modern of the 1960s. The Riverhead Diner and Grill is our only example of this 1930s stainless steel modern style. As such, it is an important part of the conversation between the decades that makes downtown Riverhead so special. And, of course, their good, old-fashioned home cooking is hard not to like."

The first unit of the diner, which made its entrance in Riverhead in 1932, replaced an older building and was a prefabricated wood unit originally located on the lot just to the west.

About five years later, Wines said, the original unit was moved to the rear and converted to a kitchen to make room for a new stainless steel unit from the Paramount Company of Haledon, New Jersey.  

During the  early 1950s, when milkshakes and burgers, poodle skirts and bobby socks were as synonymous with America as big-finned cars and jukeboxes, both units of the diner were moved about 20 feet eastward to its present location, to make way for a new commercial building on its old lot. 

The Riverhead Diner & Grill typifies the streamlined stainless steel modern design developed in the 1930s, the glory days of the American diner when numerous manufacturers competed with each other to produce the most modern and futuristic structures, Wines said.

Today, the original stainless steel walls and large windows are still visible on the east side of the structure facing the alley.  

When the diner opened in 1932, owned by John Moustaka, an advertisement told customers they could expect "Good food, well served, at attractive prices."

Current owner Liz Strebel still holds true to the long-standing tradition, providing a place where Riverhead residents can meet, share a cup of joe and a meal, and find a sense of community and tradition that's flourished at the spot for decades.

The Riverhead Diner & Grill is featured in a beautifully illustrated book, The American Diner, by Michael Karl Witzel, published in 1999.

Veronica October 13, 2012 at 11:23 PM
When I graduated from high school and got my first job, I was 17 and worked for a local law firm. I didn't get paid much, and I still had to give in to my parents more than half of my take home pay. On the $15 left I had to buy my own clothes and shoes, buy a weekly bus ticket from E. Moriches, pay my dentist and provide my own lunch. On the rare occasion when I went out to lunch with a co-worker, we went to the Riverhead Diner and bought a bowl of tomato soup and a buttered roll, for 35 cents. Other times we would buy one ham on rye sandwich and a side of cole slaw, and split it between us. We drank water. Our waitress was the wonderful Lil. This was 1958.


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