When he opened the Buckhead Diner in 1987, Pano Karatassos saw it as his personal manifestation of the little diner every Greek has in his heart.
But not every little diner goes on to become an Atlanta icon.
When Karatassos opened the diner, he set out to fill a gap in the Atlanta restaurant scene. "Casual-upscale" dining experiences were nowhere to be found in the so-called capital of the American South, so he set out to create one.
So, when the Buckhead Diner opened, filling that void, it did so with a bang.
“It hit with such force,” recalls the restaurant’s opening chef, Gerry Klaskala. “No one was busier per square foot than this restaurant. It was a phenomenon.”
Celebrities soon frequented the diner, as did Atlanta’s business elite. The classy-casual atmosphere, with reliably delicious food, made it the place for local deals to be made.
The who's-who list of regulars have not made the Buckhead Diner iconic, though. It’s the stories of families who have made the Piedmont Road landmark a part of their lives.
Business lunch meetings first brought Dan Smith to the Buckhead Diner, but it soon became a place filled with family memories. He and his wife, Lauren, have dined there for nearly 30 years, and now often come with grandkids in tow.
Lauren reflects, “One of the most cherished parts of coming here is that the kids love it as much as we do.”
Sarah Shields also loves the diner for its welcoming, neighborhood feel. When she and her husband moved to the area 17 years ago, the Buckhead Diner was a date-night favorite. They soon brought along their sons, who grew up sharing a booth with their parents.
Shields fondly remembers her youngest riding his scooter to the restaurant and checking it with the valet. Her boys, now 14 and 16, agree that past memories and the desire to build future ones keep them coming back.
Looking far to the future, Henry, 14, says, “If I ever have kids, I want to take them here to show them what I grew up with.”
Chef Klaskala says of this multigenerational affinity for the diner, “You find out your food has been loved when people come back. You’re creating food memories and if they’re powerful enough people want to come back again and again.”
That the restaurant is now entering its 30th year of making memories is a testament to that commitment.
As the diner's current chef, Charlie Schwab, explains, “This is a restaurant that is steeped deeply in the Atlanta tradition.
“It has stood the test of time.”
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