The Review / Larkinville’s Swan Street Diner
Offering charm and delicious food
Enjoy your meal inside or out at this quaint eatery in the Larkin District.
Photos by Eric Frick
Swan Street Diner
700 Swan Street, Buffalo
swanstreetdiner.com or 768-1823
If you appreciate nostalgia as much as food, you’ll enjoy the Swan Street Diner. It’s a small place with a big heart. In that way, it’s very Buffalo.
The fully restored 1937 diner car opened in October of last year. It joins a number of newer restaurants that have opened in the Larkin District, offering one more reason to experience firsthand the industrial-to-culinary renaissance of Larkinville.
Our party of five set out on a recent Saturday morning to explore the diner—which serves breakfast and lunch only. We wanted to see what the fanfare was about and find out if the food was as good as what we’d heard. Parking is a bit tricky, as the lot is not immediately visible from the front. First-time visitors could easily miss the ample lot located behind the diner.
Stepping into the diner feels like stepping a few decades back in time. Glossy restored mahogany wood paneling covers the walls; the same wood is used in a double row of booths, and we sat in one of these. We ordered coffee while looking over the menu and taking in the surroundings. A row of stools line the lunch counter, where it was easy to imagine men gathering for plates of food after a long day of factory work. The space is compact, giving the place a communal, cozy feel. (It wouldn’t be a great choice for a big group.)
Diner cars exploded in popularity in the 1930s. They were intended to mimic the fine dining cars enjoyed by travelers on railroads. Many of the diner car restaurant owners were men who had returned from war, and the compact spaces offered affordable ways to own and operate eateries. If business was successful, expansion was easy. Owners could build out from the back.
As we mused on diner history, coffee arrived. The java, which is from the locally owned Undergrounds Roastery, is strong, full-bodied, and delicious. To our delight, warm-ups were frequent. We started with a plate of mini doughnuts (six for $8). The glazed, cinnamon, and powdered sugar doughnuts came out quickly from the kitchen. Crispy on the outside and melty hot on the inside, these are worth every finger-licking calorie. Do you get the most doughnut for your buck? Definitely not, but the tantalizing freshness of these made-to-order treats makes them worthy—and fun-sized—breakfast items.
Just as we finished the doughnuts, our server appeared with platefuls of incredible-smelling food. We’d chosen an assortment of their breakfast offerings, including a couple of the omelets, corned beef hash, and bacon and eggs.
The House Hash ($12) came with corned beef and potato hash, two eggs, and toast. The corned beef is impressive. Many diners serve it from the can; not here. The thick cut corned beef is made in-house, roughly chopped, and well-seasoned. Mixed with crispy potatoes, it’s just the kind of hearty breakfast to satisfy a morning appetite.
Both the omelets—portabella-bacon and Greek ($11 each)—arrived fluffy, generously filled, and with sides of home fries and toast. Toast here is served with a side of butter and housemade mixed berry jam, which is both tart and sweet—and utterly delightful. Small touches like this set the establishment apart from other area diners.
Portabella and bacon omelet served with toast and homefries; classic breakfast
My order—two eggs with bacon, home fries, and toast ($9)—did not disappoint. The eggs were cooked to a perfect medium, and the bacon was thick-cut and crispy. The home fries were also pleasingly crisp. I consider crispiness a litmus test in breakfast potatoes.
As we enjoyed our food and liquid fuel, the place bustled. A family with two small children enjoyed breakfast at the counter; couples and groups of friends filled the booths. No seat was empty, and the waitstaff hustled back and forth between guests and the kitchen to meet the weekend demand. Despite the morning crush, service remained friendly, fast, and efficient. Our server answered all our questions, didn’t mind tweaking things a bit for us, and willingly split the check.
Although the diner may be reminiscent of yesteryear, the prices are not. Some might find them a bit steep for casual dining, but the ambiance, service, and the fact that everything is house-made makes the extra cost worth it.
We’re positive we’ll return to explore more of the menu.