If you're hungry for an old-time chopped steak smothered in gravy and served with a side of nostalgia, you'll have to wait a while. The S&S Diner, a Miami institution since 1938, has temporarily closed. A recent visit found the eatery locked up as secure as Fort Knox.
Both the Dutchess & Duque salon and Danny Serfer, partner at neighboring Mignonette, confirm the diner is closed for just the week while the building next door gets demolished, but this could be a portent of the historic eatery's future.
In February, the Real Deal announced that ASRR Capital Ltd., a publicly traded Israeli company, just signed a contract to purchase the building that houses S&S, along other adjacent properties — in all, nearly an entire block of the newly titled Arts & Entertainment District for $33 million. The parcel of land, a total of 60,000 square feet, runs from 17th Terrace to 18th Street and between NE Second Avenue and NE Second Court.
In a call placed to the S&S Diner a few months ago, manager Maria Linares had just heard about the sale. "We found out two days ago the building was sold, " she confided. "Up until now, everything is fine. Let's see what happens."
Anthony Bourdain filmed a segment at the diner for his TV show The Layover. The chef and author sat at the eatery's signature horseshoe counter and ordered meatloaf with grits and gravy. The diner, which has a time-warp look and feel, is special in many ways. According to the City of Miami's Historic Preservation program, the narrow, 12-foot-wide building is a classic example of art deco design that "illustrates the architectural trends and prevalent materials of the Depression era. Multicolored structural glass is arranged in a series of horizontal and vertical bands on the building's façade."
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These designations protect the building to some extent, but not completely. According to the City of Miami's Historic Preservation website, if the owner of a building with a historic designation wanted to alter or even demolish the property, "changes such as additions, new construction, or demolition would require review and approval by the Historic and Environmental Preservation Board, which meets once per month. The ordinance allows no more than 60 days for action on an application to the Board."
There is some good news regarding the diner's purchase. According to the Real Deal, the property sale also comes with 1.5 million square feet of air rights, making it ripe for a high-rise to go up around the building, leaving the diner intact. So far, no solid plans have been announced regarding the S&S's ultimate fate.
Let's hope the S&S Diner stays as it is — a classic example of 1930s architecture that serves old-school comfort food. Miami has countless shiny new condos, but treasures like the S&S are rare jewels worth saving for generations to come.