If you’re looking to devour some great-tasting food made with the freshest ingredients while feeling like you never left the comfort of your own home, then look no farther than the Flagship Diner in Briarwood, according to eatery co-owner Vincent Pupplo.
“We make just about everything from scratch. You come in here for pancakes, we made the mix,” Pupplo said in a Monday interview at the restaurant. “You can’t fool the customers. They know what they should be getting.”
For 50 years, the Flagship Diner at 138-30 Queens Blvd. has been serving hungry area residents. And for the last 21 years, Pupplo and his partners, Frank Lountzis and Jimmy Skartsiaris — all of whom are former venue employees there — have operated the eatery with an unrivaled dedication to their customers.
“Our regulars are very supportive,” Pupplo said. “They’re telling me they’re very happy with what we’re doing here.”
The restaurant — which employs a total of 40 people, most of whom have worked there for years — is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a special dinner menu this month. But instead of charging 1965 prices, Pupplo said patrons will be able to enjoy a four-course meal for just $19.65.
Soups, salads and other appetizers represent the first and second courses, with customers being able to choose two out of the three.
An entree and a wide range of dessert options represent the third and fourth courses, while a cup of coffee and a complimentary glass of wine round out the inexpensive meal.
“It’s an outstanding deal,” Pupplo said.
The Flagship Diner has stayed in business for five decades despite a minefield of obstacles that the co-owners have had to navigate through.
An uptick in ticketing for the most minute and sometimes made-up violations by various city agencies has taken a small toll over the years, but Pupplo said the lengthy Kew Gardens Interchange Project — the years-long reconstruction of the confluence of the Grand Central Parkway, Van Wyck Expressway, Jackie Robinson Parkway and Union Turnpike just blocks from the diner — has “killed” business.
“It killed us. We’ve lost a lot of business from that,” he said. “We lost a lot of business from the subway being so messed up for years now. For three years, we couldn’t get anybody from the subway.”
Years earlier, the fear of taking the subway to go into Manhattan in the wake of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 greatly reduced the number of straphangers who wandered into the diner on their way to the train. At the same time, a mass closing of area nightclubs severely cut into the number of late-night meals his cooks prepared.
In order to make up for a relative lack of new business, Pupplo, a College Point resident, said the restaurant’s focus has turned toward keeping regular patrons happy and coming back for more, a strategy that’s proved successful.
“It’s just a homey place,” he said. “We try to make people feel like they are guests in our homes.”