Cody’s DIner interior

Day and Night

One spring night in April 1994, the windows of Hi-Way Diner blew out. What glass was left, the fire toasted brown. “Jukebox coin machines, napkin holders and sugar dispensers at some of the tables had melted. Trays of fresh eggs left on the shelf behind the grill were hard-boiled by the intense heat,” the Register reported. Arson was suspected but never proven.

The burning of the Hi-Way, owned at the time by Mike Apazidis and managed by Troy Bacon, was a shock. The metallic Mountain View-style diner—emblem of the highway restaurant, and of fast food before there was fast food—had been there since 1952. According to the Register, Troy’s wife Rebecca Ivanoff-Bacon “was in tears as she walked to the diner” afterward. “She and her husband wondered what they’d live on.”

For a time, it seemed the Water Street lot’s diner days were over. Apazidis collected the insurance and left the ashes where they lay. Yet Troy, with a wife and 9-month-old son to support, was determined to resurrect the business. He bought the property and reopened the place as Cody’s Diner in 1995, naming it after his boy. Pictures of baby Cody used to hang on the walls, since replaced by newer photos sans bib and crib. Younger sister Shea, born after the reopening, is up there, too.

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For 20 years, the diner’s been a destination for locals and a pit stop for travelers coming off 91 and 95. Rebecca often works the register and Cody occasionally comes in to work on the weekends, while Troy’s mother, Johanne, recognizable by her voluminous white hair, rules the kitchen. Cody’s employs a team of cooks to prepare most of its inexpensive, mostly American-style diner fare. But items like the soups and pot roast, plus any Italian cuisine, is Bacon-style home cooking.

Even situated just a block from Wooster Street’s row of famed apostrophe-ed food institutions—Pepe’s, Sally’s, Libby’s—Cody’s isn’t often mentioned in the same breath. But there are plenty who’ve pledged their allegiance to it. One fellow at a booth told me he’s been going there for decades. “He used to drive tractor-trailers and eat here when it was still Hi-Way,” said his son, sitting across from him. “It used to be all metal… like an old-time trolley,” offered the father. Now eighty and retired, he says he still comes in every day.

It’s not unusual to find families like theirs dining together. On weekend mornings especially, the place is crowded with ’em. “They have their favorite spots to sit, favorite servers, meals,” says Vianey Mellado, a server. One of her favorite families is a couple with three kids who come in and give hugs to the diner staff before sitting down.

Given its wholesome charms, it seems strange that the restaurant should have four surveillance cameras panning every inch of the place. Or that after a certain hour of the night, there’s a police officer on site. Or that the back of the menu reads as follows:

We reserve the right to arrange seating and may refuse service to disorderly persons. / Last person present will be held responsible for check. / Regretfully, we are not responsible for lost articles.

That’s because the crowd isn’t always so family-friendly. As nighttime rumbles down the interstate, bright-eyed families cede the restaurant to late travelers and other denizens of the night, including rowdy partiers looking for a place to eat after the city’s clubs and bars have closed. For the latter, Cody’s—open 24/7/365, save half-day closures for Thanksgiving and Christmas—is a reliable go-to. According to one patron, “When bars let out, the people-watching is at its best.”

And yet, occasionally, this has been a recipe for confrontations, which very occasionally descend into violence. The Register has chronicled a handful of serious attacks committed outside Cody’s in the past 15 years.

Danielle Terrazzano has worked at Cody’s even longer, nearly 18 years, and she knows a much less menacing, much more intriguing thing or two about the night shift. “Around three or four we get early-morning workers,” she says. “We get truckers off the highway. Hitchhikers too. Sometimes they get lost walking along Route 1 on their way to Massachusetts and they wander in… Maybe a few every couple months.”

Though the mostly classic diner food at Cody’s may not make it a place for culinary wanderers, its long hours, comforting low-cost menu and just-off-the-freeway positioning make it an attractive place for wanderers of a different sort.

Cody’s Diner
95 Water St, New Haven (map)
Open 24/7
(203) 562-0044
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Written by Daniel Shkolnik. Photos 1 & 2 by Daniel Shkolnik; photo 3 by Dan Mims.

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