Hudson River

All-American Diner Tour: Alexis Diner in Newburgh, New York

Located off I-84 at the juncture of Route 9W and N. Plank Road at the north end of economically depressed , New York, Alexis Diner is a 24-hour Greek restaurant-diner hybrid with all the chrome you can ask for. Its extensive menu and desert offerings includes a full bar. There is limited counter seating but plenty of booths and tables. Wall murals and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling make for an unusually classy atmosphere.

On my visit, I ordered the Mediterranean Panini with grilled chicken, fresh spinach, mozzarella cheese, and pesto for $10.75. It came with French fries, cole slaw, and half a pickle. I was able to substitute macaroni salad for the French fries for no extra charge. The waitress was attentive and the food was good.

My only complaint was that the chicken pieces in my panini were too large but otherwise it was perfect. I normally don’t eat desert, but my waitress persuaded me to try the rice pudding. I thought it would be served in a small bowl, but it came out in a large glass topped with whip cream and cinnamon! So good.

As mentioned earlier, their menu is quite extensive. At twelve pages, it’d be hard not to find something you like. There is an entire selection of southwestern cuisine, including stir fry, fajitas, quesadillas, nachos, and a taco salad. Their specialty sandwiches include a “Jitterbug,” an open-faced hamburger slathered in gravy, served with French fries or potato salad and cole slaw for $7.25.

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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…”

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