We sampled the goods and we can attest: solid!
Photos, editing and additional content: Sue Bachner
We Can’t Get Over It, And Why Should We? The overly generous portions, the “how could they be making money” combo deals, the insistence that your included dessert be taken home…young people, probably working their first job, walking around the place with pitchers of coke to instantly refill needy glasses…the signed celebrity photos on the walls…the forever lines down the block, with the staff coming out to hand out samples of spanakopita as a thank you and a lure to get you to wait it out just a bit longer. Although located on a busy street, these are the memories of a neighborhood; the reasons that one place means more than another to you as time goes on.
Seaford Palace Diner, originally opened in 1992, reopened two weeks ago as unexpectedly as it had closed in January, 2015. Also now known as “Original Seaford Palace Diner,” the very use of the name in any form evokes memories of its early days when they redefined service and value in the area. We brag about having been there when the name comes up, and we judge other places by that standard without even realizing, don’t we?
Over the years, Seaford Palace became synonymous with the most important word in the business: consistency. You knew you could count on them. The portions and quality were reliable. George and our other favorite servers always took care of us, as we took care of them in kind.
There is another way to own a place that is consistent: buy a place that is consistent. But, then you have to follow through. New owners came in, in the mid 2000’s, and our first hint should have been enough: George & Company left straight away. We didn’t know what was up, but take this as Restaurant Gospel: when veteran servers leave a very good gig as soon as new owners come in, it is a huge red flag.
One Day This Will Be Funny. But Not Today. Still, we gave it a shot, and arrived for a meal between the lunch and dinner rushes one Sunday. In mid meal, a guy came down our narrow aisle with a vacuum, on what had to be a “high” setting. This I say because it was the only audible thing in the room. We thought about complaining, but were stuck because we weren’t certain that this could actually be happening.
A year or so after this, the roof literally caved in on the place after a storm. Having held the paper, the original owners returned out of necessity, made the repairs and reopened nine months later. They eventually sold for good in 2014, and it wound up closing the following year.
“The Reef” followed in the same location. I started rooting for this place immediately when I saw a kind of spunk in their approach. I’d be at a red light at their corner, and someone from staff would jump out, go up to car windows and offer free samples. I really dug it (is that illegal?) On the other hand, the staff creeped me a bit. I knew that if that one server offered my girlfriend extra muffins to “take home for the morning” one more time, it wasn’t going to end well. It’s ironic that all of the things that George did in a kind manner seemed cloying and unwelcome from someone that didn’t seem to care. We stopped attending.
“The Friendly Greek” came in for about a year. It got many good reviews, but the prices were significantly above the previous places in that spot. They made a big deal of that fact that they were not a diner, but chose to locate at…a diner. Tough spot. I’m reminded of the bank that took over the Friendlies location that I worked at years ago. Do I want interest, or a Fribble? Juxtaposition sometimes makes a hard thing harder, and the biz is hard as it is. Though a quality establishment, “The Friendly Greek” checked out.
Okay, Okay…Is The New Place Any Good? We walked in on the recent, unexpectedly snowy March night when most folks were staying home. We were immediately approached by our very friendly server, who dropped a big basket of bread, individual portions of cole slaw and pickle for both of us, and marinated beets. This, even before saying hello. “Hello!” (It was inevitable.) “Brave of you to come out.” Truth. But it was a short trip, and the anticipation was killing us. We had to know, one way or the other.
We went for Diner Basics. If you can’t get the basics right, you need to get out. Sue got the Turkey Club, opting for sweet potato fries as an alternate. Burger Deluxe for me; bacon and Swiss. After a very reasonable wait, everything arrived. Sue was satisfied with her food, and I was also. The burger was cooked more than I’d asked for, but that turned out to be minor as it was juicy regardless, and I enjoyed it. A couple of onion rings were thrown in, which I appreciated.
Second visit. We returned last night. This time, the automatic large basket of bread was accompanied by pasta salad and a nice surprise: Pasticchio appetizer. Sue recognized straight away that this was on point. “Since I could see they got the béchamel top layer right, it gave me courage to order the Moussaka for dinner,” she says. I went back to Diner Basics, and ordered the Chicken Salad Platter, one of my diner “go-to’s.”
Elaine was the kind of server you always want: the perfect combination of attentive and space giving. “How about a complimentary glass of wine?” Possibly two seconds went by before our acceptance. Sue’s starter arrived. “The Greek salad was great.” She’d expected at least one Dolmadakia (stuffed grape leaf), but it was not a deal breaker.
My salad totally satisfied. Chicken and a scoop of egg salad, fresh greens, etc. Ranch on the side at Elaine’s prompting. A meal. Sue has a very discerning eye for Mousaka, and it won her over. “Moussaka ended up being really great too, and I liked the fact that they put the red sauce on the side instead of dumping on the dish as I have seen in other places.”
The only thing left to try from Diner Basics, for me, is breakfast. We’ll get there.
Wine is available, as noted, and bottled beer. And, in a nod to present day eats, gluten free products are offered (ask your server.)
So? You know how when you walk into a diner, you have this kind of baseline standard that needs to be met? C’mon, you know. Happily, we can report that the new Seaford Palace Diner is better than that, meeting up to big expectations. And with big shoes to fill and long memories to compare against, that is not a small accomplishment. The neighborhood knows, and remembers.
What are your memories of Seaford Palace?
Have you checked out the new spot yet? Let us know in the comments!