What does it mean to be a diner? It seems that a lot of people have different opinions when it comes to the criteria that goes into the true diner experience. Some people feel that a NYC style diner must be open around the clock and should serve alcohol. Other people look to see if there’s a diner counter with swivel stools and a blender for milkshakes. Personally, I feel that a diner should offer a great 2-2-2, along with great coffee, a bit on the cheaper side, and yes, I also attribute the swivel bar stools to the experience (with food made right in front of you).
In Buffalo, I often hear that the best “diner” experiences are Bertha’s (Hertel), Lake Effect Diner and Amy’s (University District), Sophia’s (on Military), and Kostas (also on Hertel). My wife and I are big fans of diners, and are constantly battling it out over which diners are the best in Buffalo. Which is why I thought that I would pass along that we both agree that Kostas is our combined favorite (even though we agree to disagree about its status as a true diner). In her book it has almost all of the qualifications. It serves adult drinks, it has great rye bread, and it’s got the makings of the best tuna club in Buffalo. I like it for the coffee, the din of the crowd, and… I hate to say it because I’m such a stickler when it comes to breakfast food served at all times… I’m a sucker for the tuna club too!
Recently Kostas cleared out some of its booths and opted to add more table seating to its dining room – a move that opened up the restaurant even more that it already was. To me, that makes it less of a diner, but to my wife it’s all about the food. Now I’m not saying that diner=better. I’m merely trying to decipher if Kostas is a great restaurant or diner? Or does it matter. We’re always hoping that more diners open in Buffalo because we both share a passion for the occasional greasy-food experience (remember when Pano’s was in a little hut on Elmwood?) That was one of the best diner locations in the city, and gave the owner the ability to supersize the place years later (though no longer a diner in my book).
Every city needs a few great diners. I am hoping that as downtown picks up speed, we land a couple of diners there too. We will travel across town for good diner food, but there’s nothing like a downtown setting for a real diner. In the meantime, we try to make it to Kostas whenever we feel like getting into a heated battle over what makes a diner a diner. Because no matter who wins the argument, we both walk away happy knowing that we have satiated whatever breakfast or lunch cravings we had to begin with. I think I need to get back to ordering my 2-2-2, because the club sandwich is enough to feed three people, but it’s too hard to put down once you’ve started plowing your way through it.
We’ve been going to Kostas for years, though today was the first time that I ever thought to write about it. Maybe that’s because it’s such a staple of North Buffalo that it doesn’t need any more exposure? I guess it took a lighthearted argument over whether it was a diner or not to make me realize that either way you look at it the place is a shining example of reliably good food and service… and certainly worth a shout out to anyone who has never had the good fortune of eating at this