Diner demise: Carroll Gardens Classic Diner closes

Carroll Gardens Classic Diner on Smith Street.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

It’s the end of a classic…

Carroll Gardens Classic Diner, the beloved longtime eatery on Smith Street, has permanently shut its doors after struggling to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the building’s landlord. 

“They weren’t able to make a go of it, with the virus and everything, they shut down,” said Herbert Wiener when reached by phone Thursday.

The 24/7 greasy spoon between Wyckoff and Bergen streets was owned by Greek food maestro Spero Katehis and, counter to its name, was located in Boerum Hill rather than Carroll Gardens. Katehis could not be reached for comment. 

Residents and nearby business owners said the diner, which has been shuttered for several months now, never joined the bustling trend of al-fresco dining along Smith Street due to a lack of space outside their narrow building.

“It closed about three months ago,” said Stefano DiMaggio, who runs Caruso’s pizza joint across the street. “There was no space to put seating outside…They only did delivery and pick up.”

One local business booster bemoaned the misfortune of small mom-and-pop operations like the now-defunct bistro, saying it had long been the perfect place for families to grab a bite. 

“It’s just a real shame after all these years,” said Howard Kolins, president of the Boerum Hill Association. “It was a classic. We used to go there for pancakes, it was a family thing.”

Frequent patron Sandy Balboza, who heads up the local advocacy group the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, said she routinely ordered take-out comfort food from the hash palace during the pandemic, until she found it to be closed one day — leaving her dismayed at the loss of a neighborhood staple. 

“I was getting take out for a few months and then all of a sudden I noticed they weren’t open,” Balboza said. “I would get an omelette, matzo ball soup, greek salad with two hard boiled eggs and no anchovies…It’s not good, diners are important.”

Recently, eagle-eyed Brooklynites discovered what looked like repossession notices for waffle irons and other supplies on the eatery’s chain-locked doors.

The closure marks the official end to Katehis’ eatery empire along Smith, where the restaurateur briefly took over the storied former St. Clair diner at the corner of Atlantic Avenue from the Costa family between 2008 and 2011 — until a private equity firm snapped up that property for $5 million and resold it to a developer for double the price in 2016. 

Now, with the Katehis’ stovetops officially turned off, many locals wondered what the further damage pandemic would do to the fabric of the neighborhood, and how many other beloved local joints would be forced out of business. 

“To see diners go… it’s a certain type of dining that is about, really, community,” said Amy Breedlove, president of the Cobble Hill Association. “I had a lot of meetings there — some of them over eggs.”

“I think of the Carroll Gardens Diner as the community diner,” said Balboza. “It’s a big loss.”