“The Sunview is sometimes the Sunview, sometimes the Luncheonette, sometimes the Sunview Lunchnet, and sometimes not-a-Luncheonette. Under all names and all guises, the Sunview Luncheonette is a storefront on pause; a member-based social club; a microvenue for art, poetics, regionalism, mutual aid, and commoning. The Luncheonette performs semi-public dinners, talks, workshops, lectures, plays, reading groups, and musical interludes in a semi-private setting. The back room doubles as a studio and incubator for the design, publication, and distribution of printed ephemera. The Sunview, resistant to traditional forms of commerce, commodification, and gentrification, suggests that a thoughtful, inter-generational, collaborative approach to living in the city is possible, and that localized economies can be put in place that provide meaning, value, and income (without capitulating to exploitative practices) for both long-term and newly-arrived residents. Sunview Luncheonette speculates that by coming together, we become something better. It is above all, an “approach,” and least of all, an “outcome.” It is unknown. It is hopeful. It saves you a seat at the counter. To learn more, write to us.” ~ Mission Statement, circa 2013.
“The Sunview Luncheonette opened in 1963 by Greek husband and wife team Demetra (Bea, etc.) and Lou Koutros. It served the neighborhood as more than a restaurant, something more like a community space, until 2008. The two phone booths up front were a hub for neighbors to congregate throughout the day. Quarters collected paid the building’s heating bills in the winter. As artists started moving into the area in the late 90s and early 00s a lot of us found a warm and cheap ($1.25 hamburgers in 2002?) place to congregate, and a comrade in Bea. Since the restaurant closed in 2008, we’ve lived in the neighborhood and continued to talk with Bea about finding a future for the luncheonette that allowed her and her tenants to stay in the building – in the face of gentrification and demographics changes in the neighborhood. Bea and her tenants – many of whom have lived in the building for decades – represent a precarious population now threatened with displacement due to rampant real estate speculation in the neighborhood (neighboring rents have doubled in the past 3 years, market housing prices have tripled since 2006).
The Sunview Luncheonette Social Club was formed in February of this year with the intention of re-envisioning the space as a not-for-profit community/social center. We are interested in finding models for multi-generational schemes against gentrification-caused neighborhood displacement. We’re also interested in the practice of mutual aid, formations of alternative economies, building the urban commune and commons, among other things, grounded mostly in a dialectics with art, poetics, aesthetics and politics. The member base is a group of about 40 people, many of whom are neighbors, who also work as artists, academics, urban planners, poets, administrators, teachers, media activists, filmmakers. In the Sunview’s 50th year we are reconsidering what it means to make good use of its space, how to be useful, not just to the surrounding community but, perchance, as a model for similar collaborations yet to emerge.” ~ From a letter to friends, 2013.
“Don’t go here. Don’t go here if you’re looking for a large menu, well-designed interior, crystal-clean food preparation area, comfortable bathroom, or inventive cuisine.
Then again: Do go here. Do go here if you’re looking for a neighborhood mainstay, simple menu, inexplicably inexpensive prices, and tons of local color.
The Sunview Luncheonette — which is confusingly named, given that the exterior sign says Luncheonette Diner and little else — is a hidden gem of Greenpoint. And, unfortunately, it’s the kind of restaurant that is sure to be bought, gutted, and ruined as the Williamsburg-wide area continues to gentrify at its accelerated pace.
That said, this is a must go-to now before it’s forever lost (That’s why I’m even reviewing it; I almost didn’t.). Run by a Greek couple — the huggable Dee and the lovably grumpy Lou (many locals call Dee [for the Greek name Demetria], Bee, because a long-ago resident mispronounced her name) — this diner has been here for something like 50 years.
The menu — and prices — reflect that. The couple offers simple fare, the kind of fare that can be cooked on a four-square-foot grill: $1.35 cheeseburgers; no French fries, just home fries; $3 western plates; egg creams; Italian ices, and Yoohoo.
Locals abound — there are tons of regulars — and Dee knows everyone and everything. I took my parents there while visiting, and she still asks after their well being. You can’t beat that.
Noshers, tip at least 25%. And real estate developers? I fear you. If and when this restaurant gets bought out — Dee and Lou are old — please keep it real. Subsidize their housing rent. Maintain most, if not all, of the interior and exterior decor. And try to maintain most of the menu and pricing, perhaps adding some improvements. For example: The bathroom, off the storage room between the restaurant and what might be the owners’ abode, is a rat trap; the place isn’t air conditioned; and the fly strips are, frankly, scary.
A great example of “old” north Brooklyn. And a seriously special place. This should be on the historical register!
Update: The place was closed for health code violations in mid-June 2007 — I hope they reopen soon!” ~ Yelp Review (Heath R., 7/23/2006). What ever happened to Heath R.?