There’s a special place in my heart for a classic diner. I grew up spending hours in the Greek diner in my home town with my childhood friends, nursing a $1 bottomless cup of coffee, and doing my best to flirt with the girls from my school who were waitressing there part-time. Some of the best conversations of my teenage years happened in the booths of that small town diner. I’m just disclosing my biases before we get into the topic at hand…
Now in my thirties, there have been some important changes to the program... I’ve learned the definition of the term loitering and no longer tie up a table for hours longer than is reasonable. The people I’m sitting with are different. It’s actually not even the same diner as I went to as a kid. You don’t have to have been there to know what I’m talking about though; we all have a diner like this, or at least I think we should. The conversations with friends are still there, where I left them, in those mahogany brown and bismol pink, vinyl booths & chairs. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Seinfeld was a cultural touchstone on television when I was a kid. Maybe there really is something about this kind of place that feels like an extension of your home. Maybe a leisurely breakfast on a Saturday morning with your friends just soaks into the wallpaper after a time and the place substitutes itself for the fireplace hearth or front porch of generations past. What I mean to say is that the Plaka Restaurant embodies the spirit of something so familiar and critically important, and yet still so unique and personal: the quintessential American diner.
The décor is a mix of air-stream RV, 50’s soda fountain, and mid-60’s details; all in the best possible way. This establishment is not pressured to keep up with the times and that is perfectly fine. The wait staff is the nicest group of people around and a team of top shelf professionals to boot. The food is exactly as advertised, simple, consistent, all prepared quickly, and delicious every time. Again, looking to my biases, we are going to focus on the breakfast service in this article, perhaps a follow-up review for the Greek dinner fare will need to follow.
Having been to the Plaka several times (and never having had a disappointing meal), I’ve got their breakfast down to a science. The Spartan breakfast ($8.95) is a favorite in my circle of friends. The Spartan consists of two eggs (any style), choice of meat (sausage, bacon or ham), homefries, toast, and a short stack of either French toast or pancakes. It’s not for the faint of heart. In fact if you’re not planning to fight of a massive Persian army like an actual Spartan, then it might be a bit much for breakfast. My personal favorite menu option is the New York Strip Steak & Eggs ($7.95): an 8 ounce steak, two eggs (I get mine over easy), toast (wheat for me) and homefries (I ask the server to hold the homefries). For those of you counting calories and looking for a more health conscious option, the steak & eggs is a great source of protein without breaking the caloric bank before you’ve even got your day started. The steaks are always perfectly done. The bacon is always crispy. Always just the right amount of sear on the toast. The eggs are always exactly the way you ordered them. These are the consistency things I mentioned earlier. You can get bacon and eggs just about anywhere, (you can probably just make it at home) but there is something about a short-order cook dishing them out over and over from a flat top griddle that is surprisingly tricky to get just right and almost impossible to replicate on one’s own.
If you’re looking for food as spectacle, this is not the place. If you’re looking for a place to expand your palate, this probably is not the place. But if you want a place that can serve up a certain kind of nostalgia on a plate, fill you up for a good price and leave you feeling ready to tackle your day, then the Plaka just might be what you’ve been searching for.
Who: Plaka Restaurant
What: Greek/American Diner
Where: 2904 Delaware Avenue
Kenmore, NY 14217