When an unbroken link to the past, nearly a century old, is threatened, those closest pause and take notice.
Such it was when Inwood’s Capitol Restaurant, the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the neighborhood, changed ownership this week.
“I eat breakfast here every morning,” pondered one regular from his usual perch at the counter beside the cash register. “It might not look like much, but this place is family.“
The venerated and timeworn diner began serving its humble offerings not long after the turn of the twentieth century.
Vintage photographs show an early incarnation of the greasy spoon, called the Coffee Pot, on Broadway near West 207th Street as early as the 1920s.
In 1933 the Capitol Restaurant was mentioned on page 10 of the New York Sun. The newspaper account, right out of Law and Order, involved two young women chatting at the Capitol sometime after midnight. One of the ladies, 20-year-old Lee Phillips, was later found dead in the kitchen of her nearby 616 West 207th Street apartment. Police suspected a suicide, but the pistol could not be found…
By the 1960s the Capitol had become a favored rallying point after the bartenders in Inwood’s countless taverns shouted “Last Call.”
“I had the pleasure (I think) of walking the beat on 207th Street in the mid-1960s,” a former Inwood police officer recalled.
“When the bars closed I had to position myself in front of the Capitol Diner on Broadway and 207th Street, where all the drunks went and sometimes tried to wreck the place. Ah The Good Old Days!“
The Capitol was the quintessential diner experience. The cheeseburger deluxe with a pickle spear, bacon and eggs, fries with gravy, a big, plastic cup of ice water.
Average as meatloaf, as unremarkable as an open-faced turkey sandwich, perhaps even a touch depressing, but familiar, and always there.
And now, this holdout of a Lost Inwood looks to the future. We’ll see what happens…
Less than a week after the sale of the Capitol Restaurant, the signage was removed and the interior was gutted.
It was absolutely stunning that it took the “ownership” of The Capitol as long as it did to come to the unavoidably imminent decision to close the place at midnight on Friday and Saturday nights, after having to restock all of their plates, utensils, condiments, furniture, and you name it, for each of every preceding weekend back to Christ Himself!
My father and I often ate at the Capitol in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Our favorite waitress was named Alice