On Main Street in Farmingdale last Friday, an unusual sight was witnessed: a team of two men on a crane affixing letters spelling BOURBON onto the facade of a restaurant. It was unusual because the restaurant is a diner, a genre of eatery known more for hash-slinging than touting spirits. On the sidewalk, a woman gazed up at the letters, then down at the restaurant, up at the letters, down at the restaurant.
Inside, John and Alyson Kanaras were buzzing with energy. The young brother-sister team, scions of diner royalty both, was no doubt nervous, knowing that 8 a.m. Wednesday, June 5--the moment their Whiskey Down throws its doors open to the world — was fast approaching. But they were excited too, excited to prove that their concept is a winning one, that the idea of a 21st-century diner is no oxymoron. (For a look at the state of diners on Long Island, go here.)
“Our generation is taking the diner to the next level,” said Alyson Kanaras, who despite being just 34 years old has worked in a diner for 20 of them, namely the Olympic diner in Deer Park, owned by their father Peter. At 14 she was a hostess, at 18 a waitress, at 23 the night manager. “We believe that the future is smaller, with smaller seats, a smaller menu—”
“But it’s still inclusive,” interrupted her 29-year-old brother John, sitting beside her in one of the diner's handsome, compact chocolate-and-tan booths. During his teen years he worked as a busboy and waiter at the Olympic. “The typical diner menu for years has been just expanding and expanding. They give you 100 items on these big binders—”
“—and we feel like you just can’t serve that many items at a higher quality,” said Alyson.
Still, Whiskey Down’s menu is far from small. In grand diner tradition, it will serve a large list of breakfast fare all day (two eggs, home fries and toast: $8). There are lots of sandwiches at lunchtime (French dip: $16), dinner plates both small (short rib tacos: $13) and large (lemon chicken paillard ($21), and a late night menu of items appropriate for the hour (hangover wrap: $15; disco fries: $9).
There are plans for the ambience of the diner.
“During the daytime, it’s going to be brighter, with lots of natural light,” said John, “and then at night it’s going to slowly transform, get a little bit dimmer, and we’re going to build a bar crowd. But it’s always going to be a warm place that people can come to, that brings the community together.”
“We are a close-knit family, and we look forward to meeting the families of Farmingdale,” added Alyson. The Kanaras’ mother will be hostessing, she said, a sister will wait tables three days a week (“she has two little kids”), and their father Peter will be working the back-of-house.
“He likes to say that he’s semiretired, but it’s not really in the cards for him,” added John. “He’s been working his entire life since he was nine years old. It’s the only thing he knows.”
Once it opens, Whiskey Down’s hours will be Monday to Wednesday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Thursday 8 a.m. to “close to midnight;” Friday 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Whiskey Down is at 252 Main St. in Farmingdale, 516-927-8264, whiskeydowndiner.com