Restaurants and Shops

Text and Photographs by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Natural History special issue

Part of City of Stars photo essay.

In this selection of establishments, we expose a heretofore undocumented phenomenon: the use of astronomical words and themes to name eateries. In the 1960s, the mere mention of space food evoked thoughts of freeze-dried ice cream and Tang. Do we now associate it with diner-style ice cream sodas, cheeseburgers, and fries?

The storefront of Atomic Wings, with a bold sign in white with black letters.
Atomic Wings
Ninth Avenue between 39th and 40th Streets, Manhattan
The corner entry of the Moonstruck Diner.
Moonstruck Diner
Ninth Avenue and 23rd Street, Manhattan

I can only guess that the Buffalo-style chicken wings served at Atomic Wings are as hot as atomic fission. Eating chicken that hot would vaporize all organic material between your ears. The Cosmic Coffee Shop has an ordinary, unthemed menu, as do the Skylight and Moonstruck diners. But the food names at Mars 2112 make up for all boring menus in the city: How about Quasar Quesadilla or Cosmos Calamari or Supernova Spareribs or the Big Bang Banana Split? Mars 2112 also has a genuine-looking, comely alien stationed out front to greet you. Planet Sushi serves the expected: an array of raw fish and rice dishes. But the decor takes you back out into space. After walking under the rotating, ringed, beach-ball-sized, Peter Max-style Earth that hangs from the ceiling, you notice framed astronomical images on the walls as well as a full-size space suit suspended in a large display cabinet, with a model of the Space Shuttle to its left and Star Trek’s Enterprise to its right. I have yet to figure out what the cosmos has to do with raw fish, but Planet Sushi remains a popular spot.

After Planet Sushi, how could I resist Galaxy Tobacco, a lotto hangout just south of the Port Authority Bus Terminal?

The Cosmic Coffee Shop storefront, with a prominant sign that faces 58th Street and Broadway.
Cosmic Coffee Shop
Broadway and 58th Street, Manhattan
The Skylight Diner blue-tiled storefront, with a neon sign and a large tree on the sidewalk.
Skylight Diner
34th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues, Manhattan
Exterior of Planet Sushi, looking down Amsterdam Avenue, with a neon sign and outdoor tables.
Exterior, Planet Sushi
Corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 78th Street, Manhattan
Inside Planet Sushi, with an artistic, ringed, multihued planet hanging from the ceiling.
Planet Sushi interior
Galaxy Tobacco storefront, with a large sign over the doow and windows.
Galaxy Tobacco
41st Street between 8th and 9th Avenues, Manhattan
Cosmic Cantina sign pained on wood, with a round window.
Cosmic Cantina
Third Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets, Manhattan
Sunken entry for the Mars 2112 restaurant, with the entry to the left, a spaceship on the right, and a dressed up alien at center looking at the camera.

Mars 2112

Broadway and 51st Street, Manhattan
Menu for the Mars 2112 restaurant with Forst Contact appetizers, Flying Saucers pizzas, Primary Orbits entrees, and Cosmic Combos sandwiches.
Cosmic-themed menu at the Mars 2112 restaurant.