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Best breakfast value: The generic WNY Greek diner

One of our best breakfast picks from our May 2011 Breakfast and Brunch issue.



kc kratt

As was the case in metropolitan New York, waves of Greek immigration into industrial Buffalo in the 1950s brought about a sea of change in the local restaurant scene during the ’60s and ’70s. Cooks became owners, owners brought in more family from the old country, and suddenly WNY was awash in blue, white, and feta.

At least that’s the academic explanation for the popularity of the Greek diner. But the reason it’s everyone’s favorite place to greet and eat is the value proposition. They serve big portions, their menus run the gamut of guilty pleasures, they’re open when other places aren’t, and the cups of coffee are bottomless.

Which diner are we talking about? All of them—simultaneously. On first read, sure, that sounds like a cop-out. But isn’t your go-to pizza-and-wing joint the place with the quick delivery and reliable taste? That’s why the Greek spot where you always meet your friends or family—where everyone can eat too much across a graciously long hour or two—is probably your personal favorite.

Not to say that their offerings and atmospheres aren’t unique. Consider Ambrosia’s crispy, oregano-flecked home fries, the unexpectedly down-home pancakes and waffles at Acropolis and Mythos, or the bountiful helpings of lamb and beef in the platters at Family Tree, Tom’s, Alton’s, and other suburban spots. Then there’s the ground-versus-sliced gyro divide, which is a serious matter deserving of ethnographic analysis.

Some are not as good as others. Some make a mockery of the phrase “Mediterranean diet.” But as a whole, Buffalo’s Greek eateries deserve our respect and appreciation. If only for the sheer number of emptied individual coffee creamers and spilled Greek dressing we’ve left for them to clean up.

House Specialty: 
Usually the thing named after the chef—or at least a former chef. Short order cooks are not given much room to improvise or impress. So whatever inspiration they can sneak in between the requisite egg specials and griddle fare is likely worth trying. Witness “Potatoes Kazaklar” at Ambrosia, named for the village of chef George Dimoulas’s upbringing.

Smartest Order:
It’s all about finding the optimal order of tzatziki, feta, Mediterranean oregano, lamb, olives, and (if last night was notable) grease that suits your current fancy. Get pita on the side for plate wiping. 

Ambience:
Varies greatly, from modern (Pano’s, Ambrosia, post-remodel Acropolis) to the classic blue-and-white motifs. Generally, though, tucked away from the world, often with inviting corner booths.

Runner-up:
It’s hard to find a better food value, but Buffalo’s bakeries—or, if they’re closed, higher-end grocery chains—make for filling, portable potables.
 

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