Grand Stage Diner: Iconic NYC Eatery Reborn on Long Island

Grand Stage

Grand Stage Eatery: Iconic New York City Eatery Is Reborn On Long Island

With a menu “like an encyclopedia,” the Grand Stage Diner is “a place where people can come anytime and get breakfast, lunch or dinner and have whatever you like,” says George Argyris, who co-owns the diner along with his brother Nick. 

The Grand Stage opened in 2019 on the site of the Empress Diner on Hempstead Turnpike and has since been warmly received by Long Island diners both in person and via online reviews. 

“When I got here, I fell in love with the customers and vice versa,” says Argyris, 47, who left his job on Wall Street in 2002 to work with his dad Tom Argyris in the family business. 

The diner, adorned with numerous celebrity photos and bright, Broadway-style lights, traces its beginnings to the Stage Door Delicatessen in Manhattan that was started by George’s father Tom, who came to the U.S. in 1972 from Greece. 

“My dad started out as a dishwasher and climbed up the ranks,” Argyris says. 

George also recounts the Stage Door’s rich history in New York City from its two locations, first in the heart of the city’s theater district and then later across from Penn Station. 

“The late actor Brian Dennehy used to frequent the Stage Door as well as many New York Rangers and Knicks players,” George told the Press. The Stage Door took its name from the theater district location.

Although George went to college in NYC and got a degree in economics, he explains that he grew up in the restaurant business and used to work with his dad throughout high school and while on breaks from college. 

And, following 9/11, the financial industry was in decline, so George decided to join his dad at the Stage Door. 

But, in 2017, the Stage Door lost its lease. George says that the landlord wanted too much money and he then began to scout new locations on LI, leading him to the Empress Diner, which had been a fixture in East Meadow for decades. He says the previous owners had become weary and were looking to leave. 

“You have to be on top of your game,” George says. “There are lots of things to look at, such as checking inventory, pricing, and overseeing the chefs and food preparation.”  

He adds, “You must make sure before something is served, ‘Would I like to eat this?’ You have to be a customer first and also build a rapport with all your customers.” 

One longtime customer who is a fan of the Grand Stage said that she “always has an amazing time at the Stage in our neighborhood! The food is top notch, offering a variety of delicious options,” says Rita, who lives nearby in Westbury.  “The cocktails are a must try, and my personal favorite is the cosmo. The ambiance is cozy, and the staff is friendly, making it my go-to spot for a good time. Highly recommend!”

Among some of the Grand Stage’s signature dishes are pastrami (prepared from a secret recipe) and corned beef sandwiches, Yankee pot roast, chicken Francese, short ribs, spinach pie, chicken pot pie, beef goulash, brisket, beef Stroganoff, burgers made in-house from scratch, grilled cheese, and specially prepared Greek lemon potatoes from an old Greek recipe. 

There are also daily menu specials as well as combo platters and hearty portions. 

“Most people go home with leftovers,” he says.  

Further, all desserts are made from scratch by their own award-winning baker, who crafts strawberry cheesecake, tiramisu, carrot cake and creme brulee along with an array of other cakes and pies.  

George also points to his connections to the community as part of his success. In addition to being a member of the local chamber of commerce and Kiwanis, the diner sponsors an annual Thanksgiving food drive and last year gave out 1,000 complete turkey dinners with all the fixings to families in need. 

“People don’t realize there are people out there in need,” he says. “The community opened their arms and embraced me, and this is my way of giving back.” He also donates to charities supporting Vietnam veterans. “Veterans protect our freedom and we need to respect that.” 

George also recalls that opening just before the pandemic was challenging but they were able to get through it by using a large tent in the parking lot for people to eat outside. 

“It was rough, but we got through it,” he says, adding that food costs continue to be high. But, unlike at other eateries, George says he’s been very lucky, having a very stable staff with little turnover. 

“People come to work here and they stay because we’re like a family,” he sys. “Most of the customers know the staff members by name.” 

George himself greets many regular customers by name as well. He also takes pride in the fact that he doesn’t surcharge people for paying with credit cards, as many other restaurants have had to in the face of high costs from credit card companies. Yet another secret to Grand Stage’s success, says George, is the fact that there is always an owner on the premises. 

“It’ll be either myself, Nick, or my dad at any given time,” he says. “Everyone puts in long hours but it’s the only way to make sure everything is running just right.” 

The Grand Stage Diner is located at 2490 Hempstead Tpke. in East Meadow. It can be reached at 516-719-5977 or grandstagediner.com