Monday, November 1, 2010

"Dos fried eggs me feta...vre."

When you think of a traditional American restaurant; in many cases it is a diner. In reality, it is probably owned by a Greek, and 70%, down from 90%, are.
The Greeks that arrived in the 60's and 70's worked in the then, very American diners. They started in the kitchens, washing dishes, eventually working their way up and then buying them. They were the nearest things to a Greek kafenion for them.

At that time, the immigrants were farmers, so they knew how to run a business and many had Asia Minor roots, so they knew how to deal with different people.

There is no diner that does not have some Greek dishes, even though it has a selection of hundreds of choices, menus that seem like books with dessert displays that are huge. Nevertheless, you can be sure that there will be a spanakopita, or something with feta on the menus and baklava in the dessert display.

The names will give you the hint of the origin of the owners, the Diana, the Acropolis, the Spartan manor, etc
Greeks owned diners for years; unfortunately, as their children grew up and became lawyers or doctors or stockbrokers, they showed no interest in going into a business that required a 24/7 commitment.

These diners are now being sold to the next generation of dishwashers and cooks, no longer Greeks, in most cases Latinos or Orientals. Obviously this will have its effect on the menu. As one Greek owner of a diner said
”Once the Greeks are out, the diners will not be diners anymore.” He is probably right; the menus are a truly unique mixture of very American food and Greek touches.

Until then, the food has a strong Greek influence, in spite of it being the most American of restaurants. I wonder if the new owners will realize that feta and eggs, or spanakopita are not American dishes, perhaps they will keep them on the menu. I wonder if the customers will keep asking for the Greek infiltrated items on the menu. I like the idea of a spanakopita becoming a firmly entrenched American dish. I also wonder if the language of the diners will change, will we still hear, the counterman, usually a Mexican, saying, ” dio fried eggs, vre.” I hope certain things remain, but I also am looking forward to the new ethnic dishes that will appear on the diner’s menus, perhaps with a bit of feta.

If you visit the States and feel an urge for Greek food, go to the most American of restaurants, the Diner. You may, very well have the best Greek meal that you can have in the States.

If you tell the owner you are from Greece, the coffee and the baklava, will probably be on the house.


  1. In the past 20 years, where I live in Northern Westchester County, N. Y. 50 miles north of Manhattan, three new diners have either opened up or been purchased and restored by Greek immigrants. They have several children, male an female, who work or manage the diner. My point is that maybe the Greek-American diner is making a comeback. At least where I live.

    They also retail a little packaged imported Greek foods, such as dolmathakia, which I will buy and use in salads or for meze. Spanakopita and baklava are staples of the menu along with many other Greek dishes.

    I hope the Greek diner is making a comeback because they are some of my favorite eating establshments. The only thing I don't like is their rule of "no substitutions". If the menu says "home fries" you must have home fries or nothing. If you want something different you have to pay extra. I could never understand why.

  2. Because they are Greeks, no substitutions, Vre

  3. Hola Sr. Greg Birbil soy Manuel Moreno, tuve el honor de trabajar con Usted en Mccann Mexico, finales de los 80`s y principios de los 90`s quiza me recuerde trabaje directamente con Cristi Silva en el Departamento de Trafico para Coca-Cola, me da muchisimo gusto saber de Usted y que se encuentra muy bien, mi e-mail es saludeme mucho con todo respeto a su esposa Justine, a Paul y sus otros hijos. fue un placer saludarlo.