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The Landmark Diner

One of the dishes on the menu at

One of the dishes on the menu at the Landmark Diner in Roslyn. (November 23, 2009) Credit: NEWSDAY/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Landmark Diner opened for business in a new two-story space, about 120 feet east of its original building on Northern Boulevard. According to Lou Tiglias, who owns the Landmark with his brothers Tom and John, this is the first double-decker diner in the country.

An elevator isn't the Landmark's only innovation. It is also the rare diner that has an executive chef.

That would be Chris Palmer, formerly of Conrad’s in Huntington and the Brooklyn Diner in Manhattan and, most recently, Maxwell & Dunne’s, the Plainview steakhouse that specialized in responsibly sourced products.

When Chris Palmer was approached about running the diner's kitchen, he was determined to think outside the box. "I've cooked in great restaurants where we had no customers," he said today, "and there's more satisfaction in serving a lot of people."

With the new location, the Tiglias family was determined to rethink "diner food." Traditionally, said Lou, diners have distinguished themselves in the area of quantity—huge menus and huge portions. “But customers today are not necessarily looking for quantity,” he said. “and with 300 menu items, it’s impossible to do everything right.”

And so Palmer has pruned the menu of outdated items -- no more cans of salmon -- consolidated the offerings (six sandwiches, nine desserts) and upgraded ingredients: not only is all the beef humanely raised Meyer Natural Angus, but all the ice cream is Häagen-Dazs.

I sat at the counter and had a Cobb salad: shredded romaine topped with blue cheese, sliced avocado, crumbled bacon, cubed chicken, sliced hard-cooed eggs and chopped tomatoes. I wish the lettuce had been dressed before being topped with the other ingredients—it's impossible to properly dress a composed salad after it's been composed—but it was very good nevertheless. And, I have to say, HUGE.

The menu makes a big deal of its “famous buttermilk pancakes,” made with a “secret mixture of buttermilk, vanilla and a few special ingredients.” One morning I gave them a try and could discern no reason why they might have become famous: taste and texture were both very ordinary.

Can we talk about size? I ordered the silver dollar pancakes, and what I got was the platter pictured above. The average pancake measured four inches across and there were nine of them, which means (if I recall my junior-high-school geometry) that I was served more than 113 square inches of pancake.

Just as today’s mini-bagels are the size of yesterday’s standard-issue bagels, these silver dollars looked to me like the regular-sized pancakes of my youth. Silver dollar pancakes, someone in the kitchen may have forgotten, are named for an actual coin and the currently minted U.S. silver dollar measures 1.043 inches across.

On the bright side, I liked that the pancakes were served with whipped butter, easy to spread.

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