Diner Confidential: Tales From Classic East End Hangouts
– Fernando Rodriguez, who cooks at and manages the Cutchogue Diner, divulging one of his secrets to his crowd-pleasing chili. Established 1941.
A Photo Essay by Lori Hawkins
Text by Gavin Menu, James Salomon and Other Diner Lovers
Tucked between East End mega-mansions, farm fields and high-end gourmet restaurants remain a smattering of classic American eateries that have stood the test of time. The best diners are reliable in terms of good, quality food and available at all hours of the day. Pancakes for dinner? Not a problem. Eggs all day? Any style you’d like. And whether it’s a classic banana split or a perfectly-cooked waffle swimming in maple syrup, there is something intrinsically comforting about eating in a diner with family and friends. The stools, the booths, the countertops. They all seem to tell a story.
If only the walls of these classic East End diners could talk, they might just tell the story of how things have changed over the last century on the East End. From the opening of Eckart’s Luncheonette in Westhampton Beach in 1911, to the birth of the classic Candy Kitchen on Bridgehampton’s Main Street in 1925, what follows are some random insights from those who inhabit some of the East End’s most beloved eateries.
“The Mojito will soon be the Happy Apple.”
– Otto Wittmeier of the Modern Snack Bar in Aquebogue, referring to the sign change on Route 25. Established 1950.
“We’re keepin’ the torch lit.”
– Jim Liszanckie, the new owner of Riverhead Diner & Grill. Established 1932.
“The menu is just a guide.”
– A Jedi moment with Gina Zarowin of Dave’s Bun & Burger, Westhampton Beach. Established 1975.
“I have 13 of them.”
– Jane DeSousa of Anthony’s Pancake & Waffle House in Montauk, referring to different color wristbands that match her shirts. Established 1952.
“I helped Betsy Ross sew the flag, I was the busgirl at The Last Supper; and my social security number is 1!”
– Eileen Byrnes, waitress extraordinaire for 53 years (and counting), at John’s Pancake House in Montauk. Established 1955.
“I come here to get the news that isn’t fit to print.”
– A patron at Soda Fountain / Shelter Island Heights Pharmacy. Established 1920.
“One time I made a banana split for a guy, he put a beautiful pink diamond on top as the cherry to propose to his wife at my table.”
– Recounts Kelly Meighan, who at the ripe old age of 31 has been at Bridgehampton’s Candy Kitchen for 17 years.
“Whattaya wanna print that for?!?”
– Chuckles Gus Laggis, the proprietor. Established 1925.
“People from all different walks of life can come in here and talk about something or talk about nothing.”
– Mark Parash, owner of Sip’N Soda in Southampton. Established 1958.
“I like that over four generations it still stays in the family, so that I stay close to them — for better or for worse!”
– Dee McClain of Eckart’s Luncheonette in Westhampton Beach. Established 1911.