Seven Seas Diner in Great Neck.

Seven Seas Diner in Great Neck. Credit: Howard Schnapp

One of Great Neck's oldest restaurants, the Seven Seas Diner, has closed, having served its last late-night omelet Saturday in the regal dining room sandwiched within a strip of gas stations.

Jimmy Tsolis, who has owned the diner at 607 Northern Blvd. along with his brother Peter since 1979, said he's ready to retire. The diner will be closed for a complete remodel and reopen as a Greek restaurant in hopes of making it more attractive for a potential buyer.

"We had very good years, we worked very hard and people supported us," Tsolis said while sitting under a skylight at one of the dark booths that line the wood-paneled dining room. Originally from Corinthia, Greece, he worked as a busser in the United States until he saved up money to buy the diner, which became known for its seafood and fish dishes.

Operating a diner is just not a profitable business anymore, Tsolis said. Between labor costs, inflation and the lingering effect of the coronavirus pandemic, it's been more difficult than ever to keep the Seven Seas going. Over the years he's had to pare down his menu, which became so compact that it was literally printed on the paper tablemat next to the silverware. He also had to limit the hours of operation, closing earlier after coronavirus decimated his night crowd.

"It's sad. I'm very upset because I've spent all my life here," he said.

Longtime customers like Ernest Dicker of Kings Point were also upset by the closing. He's frequented the restaurant for more than 50 years, usually going for the daily fish special, adding on a dessert and a coffee. "It's so convenient, I like it," he said.

Tsolis has hired an architect as well as a designer to give the building a complete renovation. He also plans to bring on a new chef who specializes in Greek cuisine and have them train his existing staff. Seafood will continue to be a highlight of the new menu, he said, along with traditional dishes such as pastitsio and moussaka. All in hopes of luring a buyer.

"Forty-four years, I don’t know how fast it goes, the time. It’s like yesterday," he said. "Me and my wife did a good job. Now I'm ready to retire." 

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