Northern Boulevard, in Astoria, isn't exactly what you think of as a great restaurant neighborhood. (If you love big-box stores and car dealerships, though, it's nirvana.) But work your way down a couple of blocks and, hidden next to a vacant lot, is what might be the last freestanding classic railroad-style diner in New York City. It's called, fittingly, the New York Diner and is blissfully un-self-aware.
Maybe it's because the place is too remote for connoisseurs of kitsch to reach, or because actual sixties diners are less appealing than their contemporary tributes. (The New York Diner has had the same menu posted on the wall for over 40 years, and it's still mostly accurate.) Crouched in the tiny booth, you can inhale a perfectly disc-shaped, American-cheese-covered hamburger; a thrice-piled meat-loaf sandwich, as light and fluffy as egg salad, and served with a cup of brown gravy such that is rarely seen these days; and coffee, like the gravy, served in the green-trimmed enamelware that was once universal in diners. The place is a time machine, and when you return to the future, with its wind and Hyundai dealerships, you'll wish you had stayed behind.