After more than 40 years of operation, Midtown II is closing its doors as a round-the-clock diner.
Opened in 1974, the diner has long been a Center City mainstay for Philadelphians of all stripes, drawn by its 24-hour service and comfort-food specials like steak and eggs and the “Munchie Combo” of mozzrella sticks and chicken fingers, said Nick Hionas, whose family owns the restaurant.
“You have people from all walks of life coming in there,” Hionas said. “Everyone from doctors, lawyers and judges to people of the night.”
In 2006, the family took out a large loan to finance another restaurant, Cosmopolitan, which offered Greek food in Vineland, New Jersey. But as the owners fell behind on payments, Midtown II became increasingly threatened. The mortgage on the Center City restaurant was put up as collateral.
The Vineland restaurant closed and was sold at a sheriff’s sale last March.
“We started a new business in the middle of the recession, and it didn’t work out,” said Joyce Hionas, who owned the operation with her husband, Gus.
A month after selling off the Cosmopolitan, the Hionas family filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. District Court in New Jersey.
Under a settlement reached by both sides last week, which is still awaiting a judge’s approval, Midtown II will liquidate all of its furniture and equipment and the creditor will assume ownership of the site.
The creditor is LCP Philly, LLC, a Delaware corporation. It assumed the debt from Beneficial Mutual Bancorp, Inc., and claimed it was owed $3.6 million, which included “principal, interest, advances, and other sums,” according to the bankruptcy filing.
“We only had like five or six payments left,” said Nick Hionas about its Midtown II mortgage. “But with the Cosmopolitan loan, we had everything to lose.”
Reflecting on the diner’s long past, Joyce Hionas said it’s sad to see the end of a Philadelphia fixture.
“Some of our employees had been with us for more than 30 years,” she said, choking up. “My children grew up there. That was our home. And we loved our customers.”