Behold… Breakfast!

Whenever we take a road trip, the one question that always comes up is, “where are we going to eat?” For me, it’s all about breakfast. There’s nothing better than starting my day with a good cup of bottomless coffee and some hearty breakfast fare. I want to find the place where the locals go, the “mom and pop” diner that has become a neighborhood gathering spot. I’m interested in the place where someone took a leap of faith, whether it was four or 40 years ago, and opened an eatery, then worked like crazy to make it a local favorite. It’s all about mixing people and food with atmosphere and conversation, to create feel good results that get customers coming back time and time again. The layout may be familiar – with counter stools for solo guests or booths along the wall – but each restaurant has a charm all its own. I’ve found so many great places in my travels through our beautiful Finger Lakes Region. Here are some of the breakfast gems I’ve discovered along the way.

Connie’s Diner, Waterloo
205 E Main St
315-539-9556
connieswaterloo.com

Driving along Routes 5 and 20 on a trip to Waterloo, I spotted a vintage truck in front of Connie’s Diner, which was a good enough reason for me to pull into the full parking lot. With round stools at the counter, a waitstaff wearing blue bowling shirts, and wall jukeboxes at every teal and orange booth, this classic diner has a retro flair. I couldn’t resist spending a quarter on the jukebox and listening to The Beach Boys belt out “Surfin’ U.S.A.” throughout the diner. And I’ll fess up here – I did it again and punched in a classic Patsy Cline tune. Listening to the oldies was well worth my 50 cents. I ordered the seasonal special of pumpkin pancakes, drank my bottomless cup of coffee and added Connie’s Diner to my list of “must stop” eateries in the Finger Lakes.

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Angel’s Family Restaurant, Penn Yan
5 Main St.
315-536-4026

On a visit to Penn Yan, I stopped for my breakfast fix at Angel’s Family Restaurant. It’s a downtown location with a diner atmosphere, complete with the requisite swivel seats at the counter, wooden booths with Formica tabletops and military décor. Patriotic colors of red, white and blue are all around, military photos line the shelves and there’s a flag at every table. It was quiet when I sat down, but that didn’t last for long. Each person that came in was greeted by name in this “Cheers”-like atmosphere. I sipped a great cup of coffee and enjoyed pancakes loaded with sweet blueberries. The food and atmosphere was just the way I like it, and I left with another great restaurant on my list.

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Curly’s Family Restaurant, Watkins Glen
2780 State Rt. 14
607-535-4383
curlysfamilyresaurant.com

I never pass through Watkins Glen without stopping at Curly’s Family Restaurant to indulge in my guilty pleasure – their glazed cinnamon bread. I’m not sure my waistline benefits, but it’s oh-so-good for the taste buds. Homemade bread and a glaze that’s all their own – scrumptious! The wooden booths are comfortable, the decor has a country flair and the waitstaff takes time to chat with locals and visitors alike. I ordered the eggs and home fries – and my cinnamon bread, of course – and I left full for the day.

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The Classic Café & Filling Station, Elmira
805 Pennsylvania Ave
607-271-9111
visitclassiccafe.com

Tucked away on a side street, the Classic Café and Filling Station has the perfect name for what’s inside – great food with a side dish of nostalgia. Red stools line the counter and Betty Boop greets folks as they walk through the door, while ’50s music plays in the background. Neon lights and vinyl records line the walls, old church benches are used as booths and “Bev” the car hop stands in the corner to oversee all the action. It’s a sensory overload of sight, sound and the smell of good food. We had a great breakfast of “build your own” omelets. My only disappointment was that I had no room left to sample the fabulous looking desserts behind the glass display case.

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Becky’s Diner, Waverly
310 Broad St.
607-565-7668

If you happen to stop at Becky’s Diner in Waverly any weekday around 9 a.m., you will see the round table in the middle of the diner full of ROMEOs (Retired Old Men Eating Out). This is their go-to place – the men have their own special ROMEO mugs and a wall full of pictures of their celebrations. My friend Traci and I stopped in on a Thursday morning and the place was packed. With tablecloths patterned like old newsprint, nostalgic posters on the walls and a great menu with my favorite words “breakfast served all day,” it had just the right mix of charm and food. We each ordered an omelet loaded with the fixings, ate our fill and waved to the ROMEOs on our way out.

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Patty’s Place, Canandaigua
33 S. Main St
585-396-9470

It was a chilly winter day when I stepped into Patty’s Place in Canandaigua, but the warm greeting from the waitress and a hot cup of coffee took care of the chill. Photo collages and military portraits lined the walls, and Christmas lights were twinkling from the inside railing. Waitresses chatted at each booth with regular customers, asking about family and local events. I ordered two pancakes and the hand-patted sausage, but I didn’t understand the grin from the waitress – until the two, plate-sized pancakes were placed in front of me. There was no way I could finish it all. The gentleman in the next booth understood my dilemma and said to me, “pretty big pancakes, aren’t they!” The sausage was wonderful, as were the pancakes, but I learned my lesson on ordering pancakes for my next visit to Patty’s Place!

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Still hungry?
Check out some of these other local diners across the region. Visit your local “mom and pop” diner today.

Stella’s Diner 
110 Wolf Street,
Syracuse, NY 13208
315-425-0353
stellasdinersyracuse.com

Auburn Diner 
64 Columbus Street,
Auburn, NY 13021
315-253-7375

“The Kitchen” at Mills Fruit Farm 
10979 Ridge Road,
Wolcott, NY 14590
315-594-2200
millsfruitfarm.com

Elm Street Café 
1 Elm Street,
Tully, NY 13159
315-696-5250
elmstreetcafeny.com

Sallie’s Country Kitchen 
23 N. Main Street,
Nichols, NY 13812
315-699-3730

The Frog Pond 
652 Park Avenue,
Rochester, NY 14607
315-271-1970
eatatthefrogpond.com

Highland Park Diner 
960 Clinton Ave S.,
Rochester, NY 14620
315-461-5040
highland-park-diner.com

This winter, take some time to warm-up in the morning with a hot breakfast at your favorite local diner. You’ll probably see some neighbors sitting in the next booth, chatting with the waitstaff. Catch up on the local news and give an extra tip to the hard-working diner staff, who make their place the local gathering place. Get up, get out and behold breakfast!