The diner is such a staple of Queens life that it is understandable if borough residents take it for granted. Trust me, it is almost impossible to find a quality independently-owned diner south of Philadelphia so we are quite fortunate.
The diner is a home away from home for a lot of us, and the Flagship Diner, a Briarwood landmark since 1965, 138-30 Queens Boulevard, (718) 523-6020) certainly conveys that familial feeling. Many of the wait staff have been there for years and they know customers by name. Owners Vincent Pupplo, Jimmy Skartsiris and Frank Lountzis are certainly hands-on and you are bound to find at least one of them on the premises when you visit.
While the benchmark of any diner is going to be the quality of its food, the Flagship gets the little things right. The booths are spacious so there is plenty of leg and arm room. The windows overlooking Queens Boulevard are gigantic allowing in a lot of sunlight. Those sunrays, along with bright lighting and a pastel decor, help create a festive ambience. The pink and light blue tuxedo-style cummerbunds and bow-ties worn by the servers also reflect the Flagship’s upbeat style.
The famous line about New York is that it’s the city that never sleeps. The same can be said for the Flagship Diner which is opened 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can enjoy dinner at 8 a.m. and have breakfast at 8 p.m. if you like.
It goes without saying that the menu is extensive and that it is impossible to list each available dish. You can have just about any kind of sandwich available and there are extensive Panini options as well if you like grilled sandwiches. Jimmy Skartsiris is proud of his Greek heritage and he takes pride in serving his gyros and souvlaki dishes.
The downside of the Flagship’s lengthy and varied menu is that you struggle to make a decision about what to order. If you are in the mood for seafood but can’t decide among the dishes my suggestion is to select the Broiled Captain’s Platter where you can enjoy generous pieces of filet of sole and juicy salmon as well as shrimp and scallops. If you are one of the many who believe that diners are fine for hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches but are leery of trying fine dining fare, I can assure you that the salmon and sole are top-notch. I have a feeling that the chefs at that Rego Park institution, London Lennie’s, would give a hearty thumbs-up to the Flagship for their seafood delicacies.
My dining buddy opted to go for the roast turkey. He was kind enough to let me try a few pieces. If you are worried about cholesterol, turkey is a good choice. The problem that I have often encountered at diners is that it can often be dry and a chore to eat. Happily, the turkey was delightfully moist and the cranberry sauce was like a dessert.
Speaking of desserts, I don’t care how stuffed you are from your meal, or if you are a calorie-counting fanatic who is on a diet, you have to enjoy a slice of the cakes, pies or pastries that are baked in its sizable on-premises bakery. You haven’t lived until you have tried the seven-layer cake or its many cheesecakes that can rival Junior’s.
There was a time when every Queens neighborhood had at least one local bakery. Sadly, that is no longer the case. If you are visiting someone for a social occasion you would be wise to stop by the Flagship to pick up baked goods.
Not all of their delightful baked items are sugary. The Flagship’s signature pastry is the popover, a light and flaky, croissant-like roll, that is served to all dinner guests as part of the very sizable bread basket.
If you would like to host a party, the Flagship has a sizable private room that will make your affair memorable.
While the Flagship is a great value anytime, if you are truly a restaurant bargain hunter then you should check out their weekday breakfast deals served 6 to 11 a.m., or their soup, sandwich, coffee/tea and dessert lunch deals served weekdays from 11 a.m. up until 3 p.m. I have taken advantage of these specials while waiting for my car to be serviced at a nearby dealer.
While you never need a special occasion to come here, it would be very smart to stop by the Flagship before getting on the Van Wyck to head over to JFK for a flight considering that they rarely take off on time, and that the airlines rarely serve food on board anymore.
Getting to the Flagship is happily not an issue. There is a sizable adjacent parking lot. If you don’t have a car at your disposal you can take the F train to the Van Wyck Boulevard station or hop on the Q60, Q44 and Q20 buses that stop a few feet away.
Yes, the Flagship Diner has been around 45 years but it keeps up with the times. They now have a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/theflagshipdiner