Then & Now

Throwbacks aren’t just for social media. Step inside Eugene’s Diner & Bar in Port Chester and every detail of the decor—from the wood paneling and sunflower yellow booths to the formica counters and latch-hook rugs on the wall—says you’ve been teleported to the 70s or maybe walked onto a movie set. It’s a concept that chef and restaurateur David DiBari, who also owns Dobbs Ferry eateries The Cookery, The Parlor and The Rare Bit, had been dreaming about for years. Dave grew up going to the diner every Sunday after church with his grandfather and named the place after him. Though there are modern touches in the cuisine (and a menu of gluten-free options), the nostalgia feels like permission to indulge in old-school guilty pleasures such as tiki cocktails, mashed potatoes with gravy and pancakes for dinner.

Turns out that this diner-inspired joint and its flashback setting have broad appeal, even for those too young to remember the aughts much less the seventies. My daughter and her tween friends can’t get enough of the shakes and pancakes. We’ve eaten here multiple times for dinner and the place has been more crowded each time, in particular on a recent Friday night when a slew of Capitol Theatre–goers caused a short wait for seating.

Options abound! Custardy yolk on a slice of Wave Hill buttermilk toast • House cured bacon • Crispy Salt & Pepper Eggs • Waffles and bone marrow • Fried eggs and bologna

If you’re a fan of all-day breakfast, this part of the menu is well worth exploring. The custardy yolks on a generous slice of toast (Wave Hill Bread’s buttermilk bread) is rich and lush with the option to add caviar—why not? What a combination—those salty black pearls adding a brininess to each bite. We also loved the crispy Salt and Pepper Eggs, fried up with garlic, ginger and scallions. Fluffy pancakes earn their name: Three of them make up a stack so lofty that it’s as tall as the retro harvest-gold water glasses. You can add foie gras to the French toast and bone marrow to the waffle plate; the waitstaff wears T-shirts bearing the slogan Burgers, Shakes, Pancakes and Caviar.

Diner classics, including those burgers and shakes, are a definite draw. In addition to basic vanilla and chocolate, there are shakes called Stickabutta and Blueberry Pie, each containing an actual blended piece of pie! Continuing in the more-is-more spirit, the burger is a double with melted cheddar, pickles and “happy” sauce. This sandwich as well as the slow-cooked pastrami and fried bologna are available with lettuce buns for people seeking gluten free. Anyone dreaming of a classic meatloaf won’t be disappointed with this one—a hefty piece of savory goodness topped with a mushroom sauce and paired with mashed potatoes and gravy. There’s also a roasted turkey entrée for a taste of Thanksgiving any time of year; it comes with stuffing and cranberry relish.

left:TV dinner du jour. right: Flamingo Beach

Craving lighter fare and veggies? There’s a Greek-style chopped salad, kale salad and a trout entrée with Brussels sprouts, smoked almonds and mustard that was particularly tasty. However, the dishes we enjoyed most were slightly more decadent: thinly sliced beef with shaved broccoli, wild rice and Hoisin sauce that channeled classic Chinese food and the tangy Brussels sprouts with puffed rice and parmesan. For the ultimate nostalgic meal, try the TV Dinner du jour. It’s served on a molded plastic tray with compartments resembling the old Swanson varieties but tastes a hundred times better. On the night we tried it, we had a flavorful mini beef Wellington with mashed potatoes, corn fresh off the cob, Bibb lettuce, and excellent peanut butter and jelly cake in the dessert slot.

On the topic of sweets, Eugene’s is a dessert destination. True to the diner format, there’s a large rotating glass case that flaunts the tempting array of baked goods, which recently included a banana cream pie, rainbow cookie cake, cheesecake, hazelnut chocolate cake and blueberry pie. One night our server brought us dulce de leche milkshake shots at the end of the meal, just for fun. This playful eatery strikes the right blend of retro and modern, serving up delicious memories while leaving room to make new ones.

Rainbow cookie cake

QUICK BITES

Chef’s Favorites
The house-made deli meats—from pastrami to bologna, sausage, bacon and hot dogs—are all made using local, all natural ingredients. So you can enjoy a thirteen-inch all-beef, all-natural hot dog while still feeling good. The motto here is “looks dirty but eats clean.”

Hot Dishes
The Salt & Pepper Eggs are fun and sharable. Sunny-side up eggs battered and fried in a light, crispy tempura batter that’s gluten free: Crunchy outside with a slightly runny yolk. They’re tossed with crispy ginger, garlic and scallions. The personal-sized meatloaf with whipped potatoes, maple-marinated mushrooms and Swedish gravy is a favorite that’s based on The Cookery’s famous meatball recipe.

Private Dining
Check out the space upstairs for shared dinners from six to twelve people. It’s a private room, but you look down at the action in the restaurant. They offer prime rib or whole suckling pig (carved tableside) along with apps, sides and dessert for a set price.

Vanilla and chocolate shakes

EUGENE’S

112 N. Main Street, Port Chester, NY
914-481-5529; eugenesdiner.com

HOURS
Tuesday & Wednesday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Friday & Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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