Ms. Lash is among the diner’s longtime regulars, having moved in to Selis Manor not long after it opened. She was born in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and has been blind since infancy. She attended a high school for the blind in the Bronx.
These days, she works for the Department of Homeland Security, transcribing the interviews of green-card and permanent resident applicants in her one-bedroom apartment.
Over the years, Ms. Lash says she has heard the Chelsea neighborhood change, growing more commercial and crowded. “When I got here, there was nobody,” she said. She can rattle off the names of businesses that have come and gone as the Malibu has hung on.
Before starting her workday, Ms. Lash goes there for breakfast. She often orders eggs, and cheese or eggs and avocado. “A variety of things with eggs,” she said. “And I’ve got to have my coffee.”
On weekends, she comes in to chat with Mr. Stratis, who has been serving her for about two decades. Mr. Stratis said, “If I say in the kitchen, ‘An order for Sharon,’ they know what to do.”
For about five years, the diner has partnered with Visions, a nonprofit based in Selis Manor that offers services to the blind and visually-impaired: It hands out breakfast vouchers to residents of the building.
Elizabeth Lee, director of caregiver and senior services at Visions, said the diner “filled a huge need” for the Selis Manor community. “The staff are knowledgeable about the population,” she said. “They’ll help them, they’ll escort them.” Ms. Lee said the residents redeem around 75 breakfast vouchers a week.
The diner is well-scrubbed and bustling, emitting the warm glow of the best diners. A seeing customer might notice the servers’ uniforms (blue shirt and red tie), the framed photographs of Iceland on the walls, the beige counter that looks like pebbly sand — the only obvious reference to the Malibu in California.