All-American Diner Tour: Center Diner in Peekskill, New York
Situated on Peekskill Bay on the Hudson River’s east bank, Peekskill is a small river town with a modern downtown. The Center Diner, opened in 1939 on Bank Street off Route 202 (Main Street), is a classic greasy spoon wedged between an alley and a plasma center. It is a rare, true diner. Classic diners were prefabricated buildings modeled on train dining cars and mass produced by companies out of New Jersey. This model is called a “National diner,” and it inspired the Sunset Diner in Little Lulu comics.
On my visit, I ordered the Golden Brown French Toast, which came with two sausage patties and a can(!) of Coke for $5.95. Restaurants selling cans of soda, rather than having a beverage fountain, is a pet peeve of mine, but it came with the meal so I guess I can’t complain. Two potbellied old men sat at the counter, talking about politics while an industrial fan whirled in the background. My waitress was a grandmotherly lady who, if she was the same waitress mentioned in countless reviews, had been working there a long time. The French toast was good, price was reasonable, and service efficient.
The Center Diner has a typical menu with a few surprises. There is a small Greek section, offering gyros, balboa, and something called chicken souvlaki served in a pita. According to Wikipedia, souvlaki is a popular Greek fast food consisting of small pieces of meat and sometimes vegetables grilled on a skewer. I’ve eaten this before but never knew what it was called. That’s only $6.50, or $8.50 with French fries.
Center Diner has a 4.3/5 average out of 34 Google reviews and 4.0/5 average on Yelp. Customers generally enjoy the nostalgia and affordable prices. In a typical positive review, Google user Jeff Altorfer wrote, “This place is downright great! It’s the real thing: This is an OLD fashioned NY diner. I mean that in every way. Run down, neglected, NO artifice what so ever. Hard working almost painfully efficient staff that have ZERO patience for modern customers that have no idea what they want, how they want it, or that need 50 options on everything…”
“Typical diner fare done really well at a fraction of what of others charge,” Yelp user P C. from Yorktown Heights, New York wrote. “Ive seen this place a million times and cant believe i never stopped in. The place is open almost a hundred yrs and you can really feel the history and nostalgia. It definitely could use a some updating esp the bathrooms but the experience far outweighs the imperfections.”
Patrons with negative experiences focused on many of the same things, but had an opposite reaction. “We really wanted to like this place given its super old fashioned look and real dining car shell,” Yelp user Soy L. from Putnam County, New York wrote. “Unfortunately, the place was broiling hot (no AC), the floor was filthy its entire length despite a dawdling young waitress, and the service was inattentive. There was no silverware, no water, and no pleasantries. No check up on us was ever attempted in order to refill our drinks… The picture on the wall next to our booth was slathered in food smears. The place needs a serious make over.”
It seems if you like an aging, laid back and nostalgic diner with cheap food and prices, Center Diner is right for you. If you prefer a more modern, efficient establishment, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
Center Diner is located at 13 Bank Street in downtown Peekskill, New York. Phone: Unknown (# listed on Google is incorrect). It is open seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is cash only, and they do not have an ATM. The nearest ATM is located at a nearby bank (behind a security door), or down the street outside a Chase Bank. Metered street parking is available.