The Lantern Diner was one of Long Island's only remaining...

The Lantern Diner was one of Long Island's only remaining 24-hour diners. Credit: Newsday/Andi Berlin

One of Long Island's few remaining 24-hour diners, The Lantern Diner in West Hempstead, has closed after nearly 60 years in business.

A sign posted on the inside of the door of the vintage building on Hempstead Tpke. reads: "Closing until further notice. Thank you for your patronage, The Lantern Diner team," with a handwritten addition that reads, "Kitchen renovations." But the building has been put on the market and Nassau County court documents indicate the space at 564 Hempstead Turnpike is in foreclosure. 

Part of the restaurant was gated off and the doors were locked Thursday afternoon, although there appeared to be cleaning supplies and other items left inside the dining room. Records show the diner appeared to be in financial trouble over the past few years due to unpaid taxes. 

Owners Lori Zimmerman and Socrates Fokas, who took over the restaurant in 2014, said that they are trying to sell the building to recoup some money. The diner was profitable up until Covid, Fokas said, but had fallen into financial hardship. After decades in the restaurant industry, he is planning to retire at age 67 and his children do not want to take over the business. 

"I’m done, I’m very relaxed and I don’t want my headaches anymore," Fokas said.  

In business since 1964, The Lantern Diner was a local favorite for generations of Long Islanders who flocked to the eatery at all hours of the day for its expansive menu of Belgian waffles, challah bread pudding, burgers, seafood and breakfast omelets like the Lantern with pork sausage, green peppers and feta. A baker by trade, Fokas prepared all the baked goods from scratch including muffins and lemon meringue pie with fresh egg whites. 

Newsday highlighted the restaurant in a list of 12 favorite 24-hour diners. "The diner is hopping late at night Wednesday to Saturday, when it feeds a hungry bar crowd," the article reads. "Other nights are quieter. During snowstorms, a lot of truckers come in. Popular choices include burgers, quesadillas and steak and eggs. Coffee and cappuccino are big, too."

Although the closing was not posted on social media, some fans got word and wrote their farewell comments on the restaurant's Facebook page. 

"Very sad to hear The Lantern closed," wrote Nancy Kandel. "I grew up there and often went with my family after they opened. So much changed there but I was always glad to see the diner. Another memory gone." 

Dolores Peters Caldwell wrote: "Loved the food and all the family and workers. Food for me was always delicious. Sad to see them close." 

A 2019 Newsday report detailed how diners have become a dying breed, with about 100 left across Long Island. The format faces more challenges than ever due to rising food costs, competition from breakfast restaurants and fast-casual chains and a changing real estate market.

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