I'll Take That Diner—to Go!

Michael Perlman, aka "the Diner Man", at the Cheyenne Diner in New York

Credit: Committee To Save The Cheyenne Dinner

UPDATE: The Cheyenne Diner was moved to Alabama in September 2009.

Michael Perlman has been dubbed "the Diner Man." The 25-year-old administrative assistant and cabaret performer from Queens has already saved two historic New York diners, and he's not done yet. Why rescue diners in distress? He says they're the "ultimate public institutions"—home to striking art moderne design and to counters where New Yorkers of all classes trade stories elbow to elbow.

Perlman helped broker a deal last year that saved the Moondance Diner in SoHo. Then he heard that a developer planned to build a nine-story apartment building on the site of the Cheyenne Diner, a chrome-covered beauty near Penn Station that opened in 1940 and served up memorable triple-decker burgers. Within two weeks Perlman says he'd lined up 24 prospective buyers. Mike O'Connell, son of a Brooklyn developer, eventually purchased the diner for $5,000 and announced plans to relocate it to Red Hook, across the East River. And Michael Perlman earned his nickname.

Now he's eyeing another diner that's threatened with demolition: the Lunchbox in Greenwich Village. His pitch to the developer: Why pay tens of thousands of dollars in demolition costs when I can find someone to pay you for the diner? The response: Let's talk. Which makes Perlman optimistic that the future of the Lunchbox will be as shiny as its glorious stainless steel facade.


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