Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Classic Bay Ridge Luncheonette and Chocolate Shop Suddenly Closes

Posted By on Tue, Oct 4, 2011 at 8:57 AM

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Hinsch's, an anachronistic luncheonette operating near Bay Ridge's 86th Street shopping strip since 1948, closed abruptly last week, Brooklyn Daily reports. Owner John Logue declined to renew his lease, deciding instead to retire early; his landlord was seeking a 25 percent rent increase, to $10,000 a month. Logue posted a notice on the restaurant's window on Thursday, announcing the closure with little fanfare or indulgence of his customers' nostalgia.

And it's easy to feel nostalgic about the place: for its long chocolates counter and the kindly old lady who worked its register; for its exceptional waffles, for its tall glasses of orangeade and "cherry smash." But it also clung too tightly to its old-fashion: one of the borough's last soda fountains was also one of the last diners in Brooklyn without a veggie burger on the menu. It seemed to make its bank off a local afternoon soup-and-half-a-sandwich crowd—and to like it that way.

The Logue family once operated an empire of diners in Bay Ridge; Hinsch's was the last of their greasy ice-cream spoons. There was Once Upon a Sundae, which was my favorite restaurant as a child (where I would order "the usual") and which is now an expanded version of the bodega that was next door; and there was Logue's, which is now called Anopoli and is still known, under different owners, for its ice cream and waffles.

I once lived close to Hinsch's and went there for eggs often enough to say hi to some of the waitresses, who were all older women, if I passed them on the street. But the service could be brusque, or sometimes worse: I once took a friend there, who was mortified when our waitress covered her mouth to cough and immediately used that hand to handle our silverware. (He ordered a sandwich so he could eat without a fork or knife.) After I suggested Hinsch's to a colleague working on a story about candy shops in New York City, she told me she was rudely dismissed by whoever answered the phone—as if they didn't want the press, didn't want new customers coming to annoy them. I mostly went to Hinsch's to indulge my own nostalgia for places like it, and because I knew a day would come when I couldn't go to Hinsch's. But I also went to marvel at the meanness that had overtaken it with time. I didn't really like Hinsch's. But damn if I won't miss it.

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