The MUNSON DINER Story
Munson Diner is a historic diner located in the village of Liberty in Sullivan County, New York.
It was manufactured in 1945 by the Kullman Dining Car Company of Lebanon, New Jersey. It has a riveted steel frame and exterior of stainless steel and porcelain enamel.
It has a long, rectangular form, 16 feet wide by 50 feet long. The interior has a plan typical of the diners of the 1940s and 1950s. It was moved from its former Hell’s Kitchen West 49th Street and 11th Avenue birthplace in New York City, to Liberty in 2005.
In its heyday, the Munson drew mobsters, laborers and swells, a place where, as The New York Times put it in 1941, “men and women in evening dress swap jokes with men in overalls.”
The Munson Diner has enjoyed a colorful history. Once a choice hangout for pop artist Andy Warhol, since then it has had more chapters than this winter has had snowstorms, including appearances in “Kojak” episodes, American Express commercials and, most famously, as the alternate universe diner in the classic “Bizarro Jerry” episode of “Seinfeld.”
But with old-style diners out of style and a nearby car dealership intent on expansion, the Munson faced demolition in 2004. It was saved when 15 businessmen and civic figures in the Catskills decided to move it to Liberty, an aging resort town clambering for a revival.
Due to its relative fame and cultural significance, Munson Diner was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. Award-winning author, Allan Bérubé (1946–2007), initiated the saving, redevelopment, and moving of the diner, and was instrumental on the structure receiving the national historic recognition.
In retrospect, maybe it was clear from the start that the Munson, on some level, just wanted to stay home. After the 50-foot-long, 30-ton diner was lifted onto a flatbed truck in May 2005, it hit not one but two highway bridges on its 100-mile trip upstate. When it finally arrived, it was lifted triumphantly onto its new foundation — backward — with the vintage neon sign and steel facade facing away from Main Street.
And that was the easy part. The owners had in mind not just ham and eggs and more or less edible meatloaf but also a cool dineresque experience, appropriate for the Catskills, envisioned as the new Hamptons. After sitting idle for two and a half years, the Munson finally opened near the end of 2007 as, well, a diner.
Since that time several entrepreneurs have opened and closed the iconic stainless steel doors.
But this time, it would be different.
Christos Kritikos and his son John, of Greek heritage by way of the Bronx, re-opened the colorful structure on Thanksgiving Day in 2017 following extensive remodeling and renovation. Their grand vision: to return the once famous structure to its former glory. Not only respecting the history, but with the focus on food….GREAT FOOD!
A warm and friendly bear-of-a-man, Christos eagerly greets all who enter his prideful establishment. When asked about the rich heritage of the building and adding his chapter to the story, Christos recalls, “I had a special feeling about this place. It was a lot blood, sweat and tears my friend, just to get open. But we did it…and the nice people of Liberty will be the beneficiaries…and our happy customers!”