Though it may not boast any Michelin stars, S&S Diner South holds generations of stories within its walls. For 60 years, it has offered locals a cup of coffee and a place to build a personal and tight-knit community. Before its doors close this Sunday, July 24, customers must prepare to say goodbye to an iconic landmark of Miami that has framed years of nostalgic memories.
“I used to come here with my family the third Sunday of every month,” says Gustavo Ramirez, a 34-year-old regular who stumbled across the diner due to his love of old cars. “I thought it was the coolest place because of the way it looked and the vibe it had. When I was older and moved to the area, I kept coming because the people here took care of me. It was a revolving door that always stayed open.”
When customers walk into S&S Diner, they come face-to-face with an Elvis statue and are greeted by their first name. No questions are asked, and no expectations are made — customers are free to sit wherever they choose. The menu is full of all things quintessentially American. It's proof that bigger is better, where pancakes are served on large pizza trays.
“We decided to make the pancakes huge on purpose,” says Carlos Cardona, who has owned S&S with his wife Nancy for almost nine years. “We wanted it to be something you could share with family or take home to enjoy. Since the order was so big, it gave you enough food to eat and be thinking about us two or three days later.”
Because of its generous portions and homestyle lunches, S&S has found a loyal following in University of Miami students, who come to the diner hungover on weekends or in need of serious caffeine during the week. The diner's bouncy vinyl booths and high countertops have replaced the wooden chairs of a college library, as S&S has become a mainstay for young people who want to unwind after a difficult day.
“We feed these kids from the moment they start college until the day they graduate,” says Cardona, staring at the orange-and-green UM logo painted on the wall behind him. “They come here so much that parents call here looking for their kids, asking if they were OK or if they had someone to talk to. When they get back from summer, there's going to be riots at our door.”
With the closing of S&S, the area will enter a period of mourning, for it's losing not only a restaurant that offers the best Oreo short stack but also a place many consider a second home. In its decades of business, this diner has witnessed children grow up and adults grow old. Carlos and Nancy have attended the weddings of customers who met and dated at the diner, and the two have grieved the loss of regulars who have passed away.
But despite the dozens of people this diner has brought together, the making of memories over milkshakes with Grandpa or patty melts with friends will disappear July 24. A beloved business will become a thing of the past.
“When S&S is gone, Miami will lose a piece of history,” says Ramirez, who wishes the county had a program for business preservation. “No one will be able to replace the spirit of the diner and the memories people made here. No one will replace the family it made.”