Opening a restaurant isn't cheap. But if you want to cut costs, there are certain things you can do, whether that's handling some of the construction and decor on your own, finding a location with low rent or maintaining a small staff (and putting in a ton of hours yourself). But one thing you shouldn't skimp on is making sure you're fully licensed and up to code with the city.
We appreciate the DIY ethic and counterculture attitude (plus the sheer chutzpah) exhibited by the Handy Diner during its brief tenure at 2958 Downing Street. But the long arm of the law eventually caught up with the tiny vegan diner that was serving food without a license, and the place was shut down in March 2017 (after a year of staying off the city's radar, no less).
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The address has remained vacant since then, but now there's a new sign and paint on the building, and it already looks more official than at any point during Handy Diner's days. A banner announces that Hayati Mediterranean Food will soon be serving breakfast, lunch and dinner in the space next door to the Gem Food Mart. The upcoming eatery should be a good fit, located as it is next to an Islamic center and across the street from the 30th and Downing light-rail stop.
This stretch of Downing, pinned between the Curtis Park and Whittier neighborhoods, could become the next destination for bar and restaurant owners looking for cheap real estate amid hip surroundings. Already, Josh Pollack, founder of Rosenberg's Bagels & Deli (itself an early pioneer in the rebirth of nearby Five Points), is working on opening Lou's Italian at 3350 Downing Street.
But if you're considering launching your own joint in the neighborhood, just remember that the Man is watching.