Tribute to Kellogg’s Diner

By Madeline Edalow | [email protected]

A view of Kellogg’s Diner from December 2023. Photo by Christine Stoddard.

New York City is ever-changing and long time residents grow accustomed to iconic establishments disappearing.

I am a life-long New Yorker. Within my lifetime, the gentrification of Northern Brooklyn has progressed at lightening speed. The luxury establishments that continue to open often feel inaccessible to me. I often feel like a tourist in the city I grew up in, not recognizing neighborhoods where I used to spend a lot of time.

As the area surrounding the Lorimer L train in Williamsburg Brooklyn felt the impact of trendy hipsterdom, one spot felt accessible to a wide range of people. I am speaking of Kellogg’s Diner.

Kellogg’s Diner has been open for nearly a century and will be opening with new ownership this year after renovations are complete. The original owners of the restaurant gave up after a long period of financial hardship. Irene Siderakis, the most recent owner, struggled to keep the doors open after the tragic passing  of her husband, who previously ran the restaurant. The new management plans to make changes to the establishment, so that it is more appealing to neighborhood patrons. It is still uncertain whether the new restaurant will hold up to what Kellogg’s represented.

Kellogg’s, in its way, was a universal meeting space. I don’t think I’ve eaten there once without seeing someone else I knew. The 24-hour schedule caused every person who partied nearby until the early hours of the morning to commune at the diner. The schedule also motivated some people to travel from distant neighborhoods to eat and drink.

I remember performing at an open mic on the Lower East Side and heading to Kellogg’s with a comedian friend after the end of the mic. I ordered the most enormous mozzarella sticks I’ve ever had. I was extremely intoxicated, but I remember that night well because I ran into an old friend I’d known through high school friends. I had entered with a friend I knew through mostly transplant-filled art scenes when I ran into this friend from the past. As a lifelong Brooklynite, it is always comforting to run into people associated with my upbringing, especially as it gets rarer and rarer.  Like I said, Kellogg’s served as a universal meeting space, where old New York meets new New York.

The plans to redevelop the diner include reinstating the 24-hour schedule and a new Tex-Mex menu. The new owner and management have a history of running other successful trendy establishments. The restaurant will also have a new cocktail bar.

I imagine the new direction for the famed diner location will be a success as the new influx of Brooklyn residents can’t seem to get enough of establishments that sell fancy cocktails.

I wish the new ownership well and hope they are able to keep their doors open for another century, even with the changes. The building staying a somewhat similar business is comforting to me and likely others who struggle to recognize their home city. I am hopeful that the menu will be affordable to the average New Yorker and not just the progressively wealthier residents of Williamsburg.

In this ever-changing city, it is harder and harder for classic spots, like neighborhood diners, to keep their doors open as they don’t provide for the modern tastes that have become popular in Brooklyn. I hope that even with the differences, there will still be places where new New York can meet with old New York. We will have to wait and see if the new management of Kellogg’s can provide for a wide community. I certainly hope so.

Madeline Edalow is an artist of many mediums and writer raised in Brooklyn. She is a graduate of City As School, the oldest alternative public high school in New York City. For work, she face paints at events of all kinds and is also a teaching artist at schools all over the city. She is a current student studying Public Administration at Medgar Evers College. She is deeply inspired by her upbringing in this wonderful city full of people from all over the world.

‘Believe the Hype’ Column by Christine Stoddard: Revering African Artifacts and New Mexican Fare

By Christine Stoddard | [email protected]

I stand corrected. In my previous column, I cited statistics about Brooklyn’s Black population using numbers provided by Brooklyn.org. While there was nothing wrong about those numbers (to my current knowledge), Matt Sollars, vice president of the non-profit communications firm Anat, sent me an email about Brooklyn.org. In my column, I wrote that Brooklyn.org was run by the Brooklyn Community Foundation. This was because, at time of press, the website’s footer, Brooklyn.org lists this: “© 2024 Brooklyn Community Foundation DBA Brooklyn Org.” But notice that there is no period between “Brooklyn” and “Org”–and if you didn’t know, DBA stands for “doing business as.” Sollars explained that last fall, the organization underwent a name change. Thus, Brooklyn Community Foundation became Brooklyn Org, and still runs the website Brooklyn.org. In his message, Sollars wrote: “The name change is driven by the org’s mission to engage with all of the borough’s communities and to open up philanthropy to all of its people. Brooklyn Org wants to be a platform and hub for Brooklynites to organize and support efforts to help each other and build the borough.”

It is exciting to receive emails like this for a few reasons: 1. I see that people are reading the column. 2. I get the chance to correct or clarify statements to better serve readers. 3. I learn more about our borough. 4. I feel invited to improve upon future columns.

An Overdue Museum Visit

Since the last edition of “Believe the Hype,” I have stopped by the Cultural Museum of African Art – The Eric Edwards Collection. Or at least “stopping by” was my intention. It ended up being a full-fledged visit, cut short only by other appointments. Every day for months, I have walked past this museum. The grand opening took place on November 18, 2023 only a couple of blocks from my home. This event happened prior to my coming on as community editor of the Brooklyn Downtown Star and Greenpoint Star. Had that not been the case, I might have joined some of the illustrious folks in attendance: Dr. Eric Edwards, founder and executive director of CMAAEEC; Stefani Zinerman, NYS Assemblymember, District 56; Rodney Leon, architect of the African Burial Ground National Monument, the “Ark of Return” at the United Nations, and CMAAEEC; Ambassador Sidique Abou-Bakarr Wai of Sierra Leone; Dr. Mohammed Nurhussein, chairman of the United African Congress; and others. Opening a museum is a political game that requires funding, which Eddie Gajadar, strategic project manager for CMAAEEC, told me has been a process for the institution.

A view of artifacts on display at CMAAEEC. Photo by Christine Stoddard.

By the numbers, CMAAEEC is an impressive collection (re-read last week’s edition for the stats), but, more importantly to me, it is a moving one. I am more likely to be swayed by art than data. The confusing jaunt around Restoration Plaza and to the office space above the Applebee’s was all worth the trouble when I saw the exhibition. African sculptures, masks, and objects of veneration that have been collected with care from across the continent are a rarity. As Gajadar mentioned, much of the African art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is from East Africa, not spanning the whole continent. Yet Dr. Edwards, founder of the collection, which originated from his home in the 1970s, has taken great care to give these pieces a respectful public resting place. Gajadar told me that Dr. Edwards was a successful AT&T engineer and global salesman, achieving results that were largely unthinkable for an African-American man in the 1960s. African art became his investment—and obsession.

The CMAAEEC space is minimal, quiet, and full of light, allowing for reverence, reflection, and joy. That is the power of intentional design. I personally felt very peaceful looking at the works and then out the windows (yes, all of them), onto the bustling Fulton Street, one of the many arteries where Brooklyn street life pulses. It is fitting that CMAAEEC, a tribute to African ancestors, exists in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the capital of Brooklyn’s Black cultures.

Santa Fe BK

Another place that recently brought me joy and evidenced intentional design was Santa Fe BK in Williamsburg. John Watterberg, who owns the New Mexican restaurant with his wife, Melissa Klein, told me that what he hopes patrons most feel at their establishment is love. Watterberg, a native of Albuquerque, and Klein, a native of Milwaukee, first met in Brooklyn while working as a bartender and waitress, respectively. “We fell so in love in Summer 2007,” he said. And that love infuses the restaurant, which is warm and evocative of Southwestern aesthetics and hospitality.

My partner and I ordered (and highly recommend) the following: the Watterburger, Taco Salad, Chicken Flautas, and Chips & Queso. For drinks, we shared three cocktails: A Good Margarita (which is more than good), Queensmoot, and The Dornishman’s Wife. For a future visit, I am curious about the Enchiladas, as well breakfast burrito options available from 8am to 3pm, or “until they’re gone.” Note: I capitalized the names of the aforementioned dishes to indicate their exact names on the menu so you can order those specific things should you wander over to Santa Fe BK. Maybe for, say, Valentine’s Day.

Melissa (left) and John (right), the married couple behind Santa Fe BK.

While the restaurant has romantic vibes, Watterberg assured me they have a high chair and do serve families, with many dining before 7pm. Watterberg and Klein are parents themselves, with a 9-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl. Their children’s favorite item on the menu is the Bacon Burrito, without the Green Chile so beloved by many adult patrons.

One of my favorite touches at Santa Fe BK? Complimentary Sopapillas with honey. The fried pastries reminded me of the family-style restaurants of my Northern Virginia childhood—Uncle Julio’s in Arlington and Anita’s in Fairfax, for any other NoVa transplants reading this.

Restaurants highlight Hispanic culture in Queens

Hispanic Heritage Month ran from September 15-October 15, and although the festivities are ending, businesses around Queens are proving that it’s never too late to celebrate Hispanic culture.
Take for example Asadero La Fogata, which is located at 108-40 Corona Ave right in the heart of Corona. The Colombian restaurant is owned by Andrea Rendon, who aims to serve dishes that make people feel like they are at home.
“I think the way we make the food is the way we make people feel like they are in Colombia,” said Rendon.
Rendon was born in Colombia, but has lived in Queens for the past 27 years. Her older sister was the inspiration driving her to open a restaurant.
“Ever since I came to America, I have always worked in restaurants and I started working with my sister,” said Rendon. “She works hard and she has her own restaurant. She showed me that any woman can do anything when they work hard.”
There are many other great eats within walking distance from Asadero La Fogata. Primos Bakery at 47-20 Junction Boulevard serves up delicious treats that are made on the premises. Primos Bakery is owned by Ignacio Lucero and his cousin, Yaco Rincón.
“We’ve been in business for five years,” said Lucero. “We first started with the warehouse and selling wholesale, then we opened the storefront.”
Lucero also delivers bread to stores and restaurants in the surrounding area.
Primos’ must-buy pastry is the “conchas,” a well-known baked good popular in Mexico. Additionally, Primos sells handmade bags, keychains, and clothing right outside the store every Thursday to Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m. All the items on sale come straight from Mexico.

Serve your server

Dear Editor,
In these difficult economic times, it is especially important to patronize your favorite restaurants and honor the employees who make them a success.
Now that more of us have received our COVID-19 vaccine, why not join me in celebrating National Waiter and Waitress Day on May 21.
As regular patrons of several local restaurants, including Aunt Bella’s, Joe’s Marathon Food Shop and King Wok in Little Neck and Fontana Famous Gyro and Pizza in Bayside, there are several ways to say thank you.
Let your servers, cooks and owners know how much you appreciate the excellent food and service.
We try to tip 20 percent against the total bill, including taxes. If it is an odd amount, round up to the next dollar. Why not leave a 25 percent tip in honor of this day?
If you can afford to eat out, you can afford an extra dollar tip. When ordering take out, don’t forget to leave a dollar or two for the waiter or cook. Trust us, it is appreciated.
The people who work at your favorite restaurant are our neighbors. They work long hours for little pay and count on tips, which make up a significant portion of their income.
If we don’t patronize our local restaurants, they don’t eat either. Your purchases keep our neighbors employed and the local economy growing.
As a show of appreciation, drop off a box of candy, cookies or some other treat for your favorite waiter or restaurant staff to celebrate this day.
Sincerely,
Larry Penner
Great Neck

75 percenters

Dear Editor,
The announcement by Governor Andrew Cuomo that restaurants in New York City will be allowed to expand indoor dining capacity to 75 percent is the best news that could possibly be given to the thousands of restaurant owners throughout the city.
This will mean that more employees who were laid off when the pandemic forced restaurants to close can now be rehired, which will be another positive sign that the restaurant industry is starting to rebound.
Restaurants are so vital to the city’s economy. This increase was long overdue.
Sincerely,
John Amato
Fresh Meadows

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