Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Three local greasy spoons dish up diners’ delights

Westchester Diner owner Aristidis Thanos with Guy Fieri of The Food Network. 

What do Guy Fieri, the Stamford Diner, and Peekskill have in common? Aristidis Thanos, the restaurateur who recently acquired the Westchester Diner, and revamped the restaurant’s look and menu. (The Stamford Diner was featured on Fieri’s show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”.) 

Two other local diners are also getting “the works”: Burger Diner plans on reopening soon after a devastating fire last year, and the Prime Diner (formerly Center Diner) is poised to be reopened as part of a larger development project.

Aristidis Thanos takes over Westchester Diner

New life is being restored into the Westchester Diner. Last month, the diner became the latest acquisition for Aristidis Thanos and his company, Thanos Restaurant Group. 

The diner was previously called the Bypass and its giant sign could be seen from Route 9.

Thanos revealed that the acquisition of the Westchester Diner came about when he was approached by the previous owner. A few factors played a role in Thanos deciding to purchase the business. First of all, Thanos frequented the diner growing up, when it was called the Bypass Diner, so he was familiar with the establishment and its potential. In addition, Thanos understood the needs of the restaurant, having been accustomed to taking restaurants off owners and transforming them into the best restaurants they can be. After taking over the reins at the Westchester Diner, Thanos quickly began to implement his own style and standards into the establishment.

First order of business for Thanos was retraining staff (almost all of whom stayed on after the takeover). Staff were taught what was needed to ensure the success of the diner – from new cooking techniques to food quality standards and sanitary conditions. “The biggest thing is that I want my staff here to be confident in the products that we serve our customers.”

Thanos also changed the menu, choosing to make almost everything in house. “All of our beef is certified Angus beef. We try to make everything from scratch as much as we can. We cook our own turkey, we make our own gravy’s, we make our own soups, we make our own tuna fish salad. We poach real tuna and make tuna fish salad. I guarantee you no deli or anybody is doing that,” said Thanos. 

“We’ve brought quality food service, and cleanliness to this location. We might call ourselves a diner, but I really think of us as a restaurant because we are now serving restaurant quality food.”

Thanos’ commitment to serving quality food at all his establishments was evident when Guy Fieri of the Food Network visited Thanos’s Stamford Diner last year for his show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”. The diner was chosen because many of the dishes on the menu are made from scratch. After the episode aired, business took off for the Stamford Diner.

Within a month of his arrival at the Westchester Diner, Thanos has been able to double business. The diner’s success has attracted rave reviews from the community, and former patrons who had stopped going to the diner are now returning. “Customers have been very receptive. They’re actually thanking me for coming to the area and bringing good food because they no longer have to drive a half hour to different restaurants in the county,” said Thanos. 

Thanos is a first-generation Greek American, who grew up in Dobbs Ferry. He is known in the area for owning and operating the Landmark Diner in Ossining for 17 years. That establishment closed in 2019, after being destroyed by a fire.

The Westchester Diner is Thanos’ sixth restaurant. Thanos currently has locations in Westchester and Connecticut. They include: The Stamford Diner in Stamford, CT, The Mirage Restaurant in New Rochelle, The Royal Green in Stamford, CT, The Stillery in Stamford, CT, and the Pleasantville Diner in Pleasantville. Prior to owning these restaurants, Thanos owned multiple restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia. 

When asked how Thanos splits his time between all his locations, he responded, “I surrounded myself with good staff. I have general managers and kitchen managers in every location.” Thanos added that he considers all his employees family. 

Thanos has big plans for his ‘new baby’ (as he calls it). “We are going to make this the number one diner in Westchester County.” Thanos hinted at possibly having the diner open 24 hours in the future, but right now he is focused on building the business and setting a solid foundation.

The Westchester Diner is located at 300 Albany Post Road and is open from 7 am to 10 pm Sunday through Thursday and 7 am to 11 pm Friday and Saturday. Thanos plans to keep the diner open from 7 am to 11 pm everyday; these new hours will start later in May.

Burger Diner prepares to reopen nearly a year after fire 

After an early morning fire destroyed the Burger Diner last June, owner Margarita Lopez is planning to reopen her doors for this upcoming summer season.

“The construction inside is done, the kitchen is done. We’re just finishing up small touches with the city,” said Lopez. Lopez expects to reopen next month: she hopes to organize a grand reopening with the community and city officials in attendance. 

Following the June 14 fire, an investigation by the Peekskill Fire Department determined that the cause of the fire was an electrical outlet malfunction. The blaze destroyed the restaurant. 

Burger Diner at the corner of Bank and Park streets after the June 2023 fire that destroyed the interior.

Lopez says she wasn’t able to salvage anything and the whole diner had to be redone. New floors, a new roof, ceilings, electrical, and more had to be installed. These extensive repairs and renovations, combined with waiting for insurance companies to provide funds and the city to provide permits all contributed to the diner being closed longer than anticipated, according to Lopez. 

When the Burger Diner reopens next month, all eight employees will be returning. “They can’t wait. I spoke to them a few days ago and they keep calling me and checking up. They’re ready to come back,” Lopez said. Although employees were compensated while they were left without work, Lopez noted that many had to pick up part time jobs to make ends meet.

“I’m happy. I really can’t wait. It’s been a really hard year,” said Lopez.

The Burger Diner is located at 1 Bank Street and has been owned by Lopez’s family for eight years. The Lopez family also owns Hacienda Lopez in Mohegan Lake. 

13 Bank Street project still in the works 

Before its closure in 2020, the Center Diner on Bank Street was an iconic institution in the city of Peekskill, serving its residents for 80 years. After the former owner, Gus Moundroukas, suffered a heart attack in January 2020, the business shut its doors. The business was sold to Olger C. Quituisaca later that year. 

Quituisaca and his architect Marco Mandra began to work on renovating the building. The original planned renovations and renderings were first shown in 2021, and featured a refreshed exterior for the diner with new signage reading “Prime Diner”, a two-story brick building at the rear of the diner, and outdoor dining. Those plans changed, and now Mandra is proposing a four story building at the rear of the diner. However, the Peekskill Historic and Landmarks Preservation Board expressed concerns with the new height of the building and whether the building fit the character of Bank Street and the surrounding district.

In April 2023, Mandra, who had been adamant about keeping the four stories and deemed the board’s judgment unfair, returned with a compromise: lowering the ceilings so that the total building height was reduced  by three feet. He showed the Preservation Board pictures and a map of the downtown district, where there are buildings with comparable height and number of stories as his proposal. Mandra added that current zoning laws allow for four story buildings and, since the diner is in front of the building, it would give the illusion of only three stories. In the end, after much discussion about how to make the top floor less prominent, Mandra was able to keep his four stories. 

Rendering of the proposed building behind the diner on Bank Street.

Mandra told the Herald that the project has slowed down as he and the owner are working on getting an easement in place for the second exit at the rear of the building. Once that is established, Mandra will seek an updated approval from the Planning Commission.

Mandra also stated that plans are still in place for the diner to reopen. Mandra is also the architect working on the Cosmo’s Fresh Market project on Washington Street.


About the Contributor
Jeffrey Merchan
Peekskill native Jeffrey Merchan is a 2022 graduate of Peekskill High School. He is the Collegiate Journalist at Peekskill Herald, funded by a grant from the DJ McManus Foundation. He is currently enrolled at Westchester Community College where he is studying journalism. As the inaugural recipient of the McManus grant, he will be covering city government, schools and feature stories with a focus on Peekskill’s growing Hispanic community.