My Roommate, George and Me
Before my roommate and I moved in together we decided that it would be a good idea to spend time getting to know each other. We lived about 15 blocks away from one other in Washington Heights and sometimes in the mornings we'd meet at George's, a small corner diner at the corner of Broadway and 164th St. The owner, George Kalavrezos, 49 and originally from Greece, bought the restaurant from his father-in-law when he was 19. According to George, "My uncle used to work here, my cousins, my whole family." George says the neighborhood has changed over the years, “It used to be a Jewish neighborhood, now it’s Dominican.” George’s has endured throughout. Two of George’s employees, Pedro and Eduardo, have worked there for 28 and 26 years, respectively.
No wider than a counter with stools and a table with chairs, the diner has been a Washington Heights fixture for 30 years. It’s usually packed with locals, construction workers and the staff and families of patients in Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. In a nod to George's homeland there is a poster on the wall of a beach in Greece and gyros on the menu. Otherwise the menu is distinctly American-everything from pancakes to burgers and fries. A typical breakfast of a couple of eggs, home fries, bacon and coffee costs about $5 - pretty good pricing even for Upper Manhattan.
We'd meet for breakfast in the mornings before work and plan out our apartment hunting strategy over generous helpings of French toast and bacon and a cup of the best coffee in town. Eduardo, the main server, knew that we both always ordered a large cup with half and half and a spoon to stir in sugar (and at George's they don't offer Splenda). He would often pout our coffee as soon as we walked through the door. Unfortunately we moved to a place in Harlem that was just far enough away to make it inconvenient to walk there so we stopped going, except as a treat on special occasions. Still, whenever we go, they greet with a big, "Hey, where ya been?" and, sure enough, Eduardo brings us a large coffee with half and half and a spoon, before he even takes our order. Is it reasonable to move back to a neighborhood just for a diner? Maybe.