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Old-fashioned diner reflects Queens’ diversity

Just under the shadows of the Queens Village Long Island Rail Road Station and next door to Jen Lyns Day Car Center sits an old-fashioned diner or greasy spoon that some people might recall with affection.

The Village Diner at 218-12 Jamaica Ave., owned by Astoria resident Adam Giakovmis, is a family place where customers know the owner and can choose from food diverse as Queens itself.

"I know most of the people, I know about 99 percent of the customers," Giakovmis said. "Kids used to come in here with their parents when they were 7 or 8. Now they come in and are 18 years old and say, 'Hey, Adam, do you remember me?'"

"Some customers, who have moved to the South, even come back to just say hello," he said.

Giakovmis said the diner attracts people from the neighborhood because it is different from the big cold diners that one might find on Long Island. He said in a large diner the customer is a stranger and treated just like any random person.

"In smaller places you start to know people," he said. "You are not seeing them as a customer anymore. You see them differently. I've known people for 10 years and they start to feel like friends."

Giakovmis moved to the United States in 1970 when he was 21. He said his mother, who was born in the United States but grew up in Greece after his grandfather moved back during the Depression, forced him to come to America.

He said he bought the Village Diner 11 years ago after seeing it shuttered on his way home from looking at a place on Springfield Boulevard and Hempstead Avenue. He had to gut the place and start from scratch, but he said the place had character.

The inside of the restaurant, which was remodeled in April, looks like a dining car on a train with a counter on one side and tables and booths on the other. Above the light blue-and-white tables hang pictures of "Smoking" Joe Fraiser, Bill McCreary and Greek paintings.

Giakovmis said he tries to accommodate Queens Village's diversity by cooking a wide variety of foods. He has Spanish, Greek, Mexican, Italian and Southern dishes on the menu.

The area has changed a bit in the last couple of years and business is not as strong because some of the factories in the area have closed down and Chase Manhattan Bank recently pulled its branch out of Queens Village, said Giakovmis.

Even though Giakovmis said he enjoys the neighborhood, owning the diner is hard work. He works seven days a week and takes a day off every month or so. His last vacation was two years ago when he went to Greece for two weeks.

"I am an old-fashioned man," he said. "I want to give my family whatever I can, and I have two daughters in college and want to help them out."

Ultimately, Giakovmis said he would like to return to Greece for eight or nine months a year and spend the rest of the year in the United States.

The Village Diner is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

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