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Classic Midtown Restaurant Prime Burger To Close After 74 Years

Prime Burger is closing on Saturday, May 26, 2012 after 74 years at 5 East 51st Street. (credit: Google Maps)

Prime Burger is closing on Saturday, May 26, 2012 after 74 years at 5 East 51st Street. (credit: Google Maps)

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NYC's Best Burgers

by Jesse Zanger

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – New York City is a place of constant reinvention, but there are certain icons, landmarks and institutions that endure in this restless and ever-changing town.

For fressers, Prime Burger, located across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, is one of them. For 74 years, you’ve been able to sidle up to the counter at 5 East 51st Street and get a burger there.

All that is going to change this Saturday.

“It’s just an issue that the building was sold and the new owners want to use the first floor for their own purposes,” co-owner John DiMiceli told CBSNewYork.com. “I do not know specifically if they want to rent it or use it for their own purposes. But they do not want the Prime Burger there.”

The shop opened in 1938 under the name “Hamburg Heaven.” In 1965, it rebranded and became “Prime Burger.”

Part of Prime Burger’s charm is its static nature. Stepping through the doors is like stepping back in time. This feeling was captured beautifully in a short documentary-style video by This Must Be The Place in February.

“We have many, many employees who have been here for many, many years,” DiMiceli told CBSNewYork.com. “Myself, I’ve been here for 36 years. We do have a family feeling here. It seems that once you start working here you don’t want to leave. I honestly believe that.”

“We had a meeting with our employees yesterday, and it was very emotional. It will only get more emotional,” he said.

DiMiceli said he intends to stay in touch with Prime Burger’s 22 employees, adding that he hopes to gather them back together if Prime Burger is successful in opening in a new location.

“There is a small chance, and we are working on it. A larger than small chance,” DiMiceli said.

He cited the “quality, the consistency, the friendly people” for Prime Burger’s remarkable 74 year run. It even made CBSNewYork.com’s list of the best burgers in town.

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Foodies in Midtown have long known about the spot, and the delicious relish that helps distinguish the Prime Burger from myriad other places in town. And they too have appreciated Prime Burger’s consistency, and seeming permanence.

“They have been telling us ‘Please, never change. Never, ever change, please, never go away.’ And I am sad to say now we are going away,” DiMiceli said.

Prime Burger’s last day will be this Saturday.

What’s your favorite burger joint in town? Should more be done to preserve places like Prime Burger or is this kind of change inevitable? Sound off in the comments section below.