The expected noisy chorus of plates and cutlery combined with the chatter of people talking at once seems oddly hushed on a mid-day phone call to Westchester's Bedford Diner.
The iconic diner, which draws from throughout the county as well as Connecticut, still serves some of its customers' favorite dishes for deconstruction at home either alone in isolation on a sofa or in the bosom of your family kitchen.
And though revenue is down 80 percent, Tony Dimopoulos, son of the Bedford Diner's owner, said the popular eatery, known to offer great steaks and seafood amid a robust rotation of diner usuals, is staying open for takeout and delivery service during coronavirus (COVID-19) to please its long list of loyal regulars.
Working alongside two cooks and a manager at lunchtime earlier this week, he said they're keeping their spirits high with music and focusing on filling food orders. Hundreds of other restaurants in the region have remained open doing the same while plenty of others have been forced to close. The Bedford Diner is not planning to go that route.
"It would be too hard on the customers," said Dimoupoulos.
The eatery is not run-of-the-mill and is known for its many upscale dishes like steak and seafood, which can be found among the pages-long menu of breakfast items, wraps, salads, burgers, wraps and pasta.
It's the kind of place you go in to eat as well as socialize. Ordering a meal here is a leisurely sit-down where you can stay and linger. The setting appeals to business meetings as well as date nights, family dinners and special celebrations — and the weekend brunch crowd. But that has all stopped.
"The diner's been empty. We used to have a lot of people come and sit," said Dimopoulos. "But we're doing OK. We're used to being open 24 hours. Now we're open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m."
The Bedford Diner takeout choices these days run the gamut, Dimopoulos said.
"We sell a lot of steaks and salads, but really everything on the menu. It's evenly split," he added.
Feedback has been positive, he continued. "Honestly, people are appreciative and that's part of the reason we're staying open and not closing. Employment is down. So it's just me and the cooks and another manager. We make the best of it—put music on the speakers. We started delivery, which we never did before. I run the deliveries."
When making his deliveries, Dimopoulos checks first with customers how they want it brought. He keeps his social distance: "I stay two meters apart and just ring the bell and bounce. Whatever makes them comfortable."
Meanwhile, on Pasta Wednesday at White Plains Coach Diner, manager Jose Roberta seemed upbeat with no time to talk about coronavirus or the problems it's caused the business. He said he was busy filling orders for lunch that day and talked about the menu, which continues to include "everything" from 17 piled-high burgers — Jumbo Beef and Greek Pita among them — for customers to take home and enjoy in the comfort of their own kitchen or living room.
Roberta acknowledged the absence of a typical chirpy atmosphere. Without the jukebox playing at the 24/7 restaurant, the place seem oddly lonesome.
"We miss the customers," said Lisamarie Bologna, White Plains Coach Diner billing employee. "They call me and tell me they drive over because they miss what they're used to,
"When they come they're happy." added Roberta. "We use all the delivery services, Grub Hub, Door Dash, Uber Eats, all of them."
The White Plains Coach Diner is one of three Ramon Fernandez owns through his company Rayston Restaurant. The others, in Nanuet and Portchester, have had to close amid COVID-19.
In White Plains like always, the burgers, milkshakes, and pancakes continue to be popular takeout items now as much as ever, according to Bologna. She wonders about the diner's customers who are probably missing their usual hangout.