Thursday, August 26, 2010

Daisy's Diner

To me, there is nothing like a diner breakfast. One of life's great pleasures is to sit in a real diner (most seem to be run by Greeks) and enjoy all the foods I'm not supposed to eat. There are other breakfast places like Friendly's, Perkins and I-Hop, but they just don't make it for me. They all have standardized, sanitized interiors with no character or homeyness, and the food tastes bland. I just don't walk away with the same satisfied feeling as when I eat in one of my favorite diners.

On Staten Island, Mike the Greek owns all the good diners. He has maybe six places and all are thriving. Mike started small, but he knows what people want and he gives it to them. Most of his places offer specials during the week that include coffee and sometimes a small juice. The specials are reasonably priced and as a result more people come in than if he tried to gouge them. Mike's success also stems from his hands-on management style. He has hand picked his managers, including a couple of his kids, and he trains them to run the place the way he would. When he buys out a diner from someone else, a total renovation usually follows, so the place looks good.

There are a few things I look for in a good diner. First the food must be good and the service prompt and friendly. I like my home fries well done and I always order them just this side of burned. If they arrive boiled and mushy looking, I'm probably not going back. I also like the fat, Italian-style sausages, not the skinny, anemic links some diners serve. I tried to describe these sausages once to a waitress in a Connecticut diner, and she looked at me in total bewilderment. She asked me if I was from the South. The coffee should also be good and I shouldn't have to search for my waiter or waitress for a refill.

As for diner decor, older is better than newer. I like a place with some age on it as if the owner has been around for a few years. I prefer comfortable booths over tables, and natural incandescent lighting rather than the harsh neon glow that makes my eggs look blue. Wait staff should get orders right without having them repeated, and it goes without saying that I expect a mint and a toothpick on the way out. Parking should be reasonably available; meters are OK as long as they work. Many of the newer diners are way too glitzy for me. I feel like I'm having breakfast on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

If you think my demands are impossible to meet, I would encourage you to visit Daisy's Diner on Fifth Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets in Brooklyn. The place is long and narrow, with booths at either end and a counter in the middle. All the requirements I spelled out above are met at Daisy's. The food and service are great. The decor is comfortable and kitchy, with odd but appealing wall hangings and bric-a-brac scattered around. There is a black wrought iron fence along one wall that makes it look like a neighborhood block. A vintage, bright red telephone booth from jolly old England graces the counter area. The overall effect is aesthetically pleasing and very welcoming.

I can't tell you the enjoyment I get eating there. If I know we're going, I'll think about it for days. If ever I was looking for reasons to move back to Brooklyn, Daisy's would be high on the list.

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1 comment:

Joseph Del Broccolo said...

I go every Sunday after Mass for breakfast at 'my' diner, it too is Greek run, and THAT is breakfast in my book, too! By the way I like my fries that crispy too! It has it all, just as you described it. Someday i will critique diners on the Island.