Ellis On Diners

Walter Ellis shouts out Grand Canyon Diner in his latest dispatch from the nabe in the Belfast Telegraph:

Belfast Telegraph: Diners Reveal a Slice of Life in the Big Apple: My own 'home' diner is the Grand Canyon, in Montague Street, Brooklyn Heights.

It has tables out front on the sidewalk, even in winter, but the essence of the place is inside, down the steps, where the tables stretch backwards almost as far as the restrooms.

To the left are the two-person booths. The rest of the dining area is made up of tables that can be configured to take almost any gathering. The counter to the right has fixed stools lined up in front of it. Then there's a gap and then the kitchen area.

You go in, sit down, and within seconds there's a glass of iced water on your table and a menu in your hand.

The staff is hispanic, from top to bottom. "How are you today?" they enquire, and wait for the answer.

Normally, my wife and I go in on our own, but if we have guests, such as my son over Christmas and New Year, or my wife's sister and her little girl, they fuss over them and do their utmost to make them welcome.

Over there, to the left is a local academic assessing his student assignments or highlighting lines of text from a book with his magic marker.

In the middle, two thirds of the way down, is a group of cops, their belts weighed down with guns, handcuffs and two-way radios.

And let's not forget the old lady in her booth, with her bowl of soup, dabbing at her lips with the corner of her napkin. Or back there, stuffing his mouth with fries, the overweight black kid whose sister keeps telling him not to spill ketchup on his lap.

I don't know why they give me the menu. I invariably have one of the following: two eggs over easy, with link sausages and homefries; a short stack of pancakes, with eggs and bacon and maple syrup; corned beef hash, also with eggs. And of course coffee, strong and black.

Now that I think of it, I do sometimes opt for one of the specials. If you have the special, it comes with a 'cup' of soup – though you can also go for a bowl. Steak, chicken and fried fish account for most of the specials, but I've had chilli too, and, if memory serves, shepherd's pie, made with ground beef, not lamb. Don't knock it.

Apart from coffee and home fries, the other universal accompaniment is toast (white, brown, wholewheat or rye), pre-buttered and served up with grape jelly. I shouldn't like this, but I do.

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  • http://brooklynheightsblog.com Qfwfq

    I strongly disagree with this opinion. The Grand Canyon is a poor excuse for a diner. The service was terrible; I had to wait on myself, fetched the plates from the chef’s station before the meals got cold. The food was blah even by diner standards. This is a “greasy spoon” with emphasis on the grease. As someone new to this particular neighborhood, I don’t understand how such a place can remain in business, and with such popularity. Are there no other affordable diner-class establishments in the area that climb above the low bar set by the Grand Canyon?

  • Chico

    Sorry, Qfwfq, I have to agree with the original article. Grand Canyon totally deserves its popularity with the neighbors. Yes, it’s diner food, but it’s dependably good diner food — much better than the other options in the neighborhood. (Happy Days is atrocious and Park Plaza is just so damned depressing.) The burgers at Grand Canyon rock, and the breakfast food always hits the spot. The best thing about it, though, is the staff. They are friendly and efficient, and they recognize their regulars, even if they don’t know everyone’s name.

  • http://brooklynheightsblog.com Qfwfq

    Then I must have gone on a bad day, because that wasn’t good diner food. The eggs tried to run away off the plate, but encountered a black wall of toast. The sausages tried to escape, but were too puny and brittle to jump. The coffee was so weak I didn’t even need milk, which was fortunate because the milk smelled like it was about to curdle. And I had it easy — my companion ordered the tuna melt. Observing the staff they didn’t seem to know any of the customers, or even were aware there were customers in the joint.

    I wasn’t expecting anything fancy, I have eaten at many diners of varying degrees of quality. But c’mon, for such a touted local hangout, they should have a little pride in their work.

  • Justin

    I actually enjoy the Park Plaza Diner. The gentleman at the front of the restaurant is interesting to talk to and polite, and the staff is attentive and fast. I won’t give them a 100% recommendation (due to cold Hollandaise on my eggs once) but their pancakes are light and fluffy, their coffee is strong and keeps coming, and their Pumpkin cheesecake is delightful.

  • Mary

    Grand Canyon is good, and the burgers are delicious. Park Plaza Diner is okay – not great. Not sure why it’s never really crowded there, especially with all the downtown businesses and courts in the area.

  • Alan

    Grand Canyon and Clark Street Diners are both pretty good but not 24 hours. Good burgers and chicken sandwiches at Grand Canyon but a bit pricy. Happy Days is generally lousy but convenient and mostly cheap. Park Plaza is only open 24 hours on weekends but it’s pretty good and fairly priced. The roast chicken meal is a great deal. Good french onion soup.

  • BP

    The Park Plaza has gotten better in, oh, the last 12 months. The angus burgers are much better than standard diner fare. And they cook them as ordered. I ordered medium-rare expecting a medium-to-medium-well, and lo and behold, I got medium-rare — nice and red.
    Also, their rainbow cookies beat all others hands down.
    I’ll have to scout out Grand Canyon… this is the first I’ve ever heard of it.
    Don’t forget Teresa’s. The white borscht soup (weekends only) is sublime.