How many CTbites contributors does it take to order chicken salad, a breakfast burrito, a Grecian omelet, a reuben sandwich, grilled blueberry muffins, pancakes, apple pie, coffee milkshakes and the worlds' BEST homemade donuts to top it all off? Apparently only 3. But the full bellies and groans were all worth it due to the great food and fantastic retro atmosphere at the LAKESIDE DINER in Stamford. Located at the bottom of the ramp of exit 34 off the Merritt, this joint offers the quintessential diner experience. So much so, it has been used as a location in several films including "College Road Trip." It isn't large and it isn't fancy. This is authentic diner fare done right. Mel, I would kiss these grits anytime.
Opened more than 50 years ago in a trailer (!) at this same location, LAKESIDE now has a real home on the bank of Holt's Ice Pond, complete with bathing Mallards and happy geese. The water view makes for pleasant dining and you forget, for a moment, that you are sitting yards away from a parkway. Jane Agostino, owner for the past 27 years, runs a tight little ship and business here is booming. Lakeside was voted BEST BREAKFAST and given the Gold Coast Award in 2010 by Stamford Magazine. Here's why:
First and foremost, though I hate to borrow from a train wreck, the famous LAKESIDE DONUTS are ... WINNING!! The rumor about this diner's world class treats had made its way to our ears so we just HAD to sample one... (ok, 4, but who's counting?) The waitress brought the plate to the table and we devoured every crumb (chalk it up to our Tiger Blood.) These donuts are outstanding, and we're not the only ones who think so. On the counter, you will find an official citation from the Lieutenant Governor declaring June 6th National Donut Day in honor of LAKESIDE'S, "homemade rings of fried joy." They are served warm out of the oven, and at $0.50 a pop, they are a bargain of a treasure that you must behold. These cinnamon-sugar coated rays of sunshine are of the cakey, rather than airy, Krispy Kreme ilk, and are incredibly delicious. You will definitely leave this joint with 2 1/2 stomachs. Get 'em while they're hot at LAKESIDE (or you can also find them at ESPRESSO NEAT in Darien, but only on the weekends.)
Moving on...The GRECIAN OMELET, complete with feta, tender spinach, tomato and sweet onion was fluffy and moist. Not overcooked as omelets tend to be, this was one was seasoned to simple perfection. The BREAKFAST BURRITO was also well done with two scrambled eggs, melted American and Mozzarella cheese, tons of piping hot bacon (or chili if desired) - all wrapped snugly in a tomato tortilla. Of course, since we were OBVIOUSLY counting our calories, we opted for bacon only, but the chili laced burrito at the next table looked outrageous. Next time...
The REUBEN was a little different from the classic deli-style sandwich. Instead of layers of shaved corned beef or pastrami piled high to the point of landslide, LAKESIDE prepares their corned beef in ham-steak-style slices. More enjoyable and far less daunting than the 2nd Ave Deli style sandwich, this REUBEN suited our appetites to a tee. With plenty of tangy sauerkraut, melted swiss and sweet Russian dressing on freshly toasted rye, this REUBEN was rockin'.
The CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICH was also a hit, homemade with chunks of juicy white meat and crunchy celery. Also homemade were the BLUEBERRY MUFFINS, toasted golden brown on the griddle and glistening with just enough butter. The blueberries were fresh and the muffin was light and airy. Re-heating these allowed the aroma of the sweet fruit to fill the room and brought the definition of "comfort food" to a whole new level.
We were satisfied beyond belief, but our journey was not yet over. The waitress brought us a sample of the LAKESIDE PANCAKES, topped with fresh strawberry slices and dusted with powdered sugar. These were SUPER THIN, almost crepe-like, and we happily doused them in maple syrup. This was definitely not your usual "fluffy pancakes at the diner" experience but these stream-lined 'cakes were a hit. LAKESIDE serves an even THINNER version (actual crepes), called the "CHARLOTTE" which me might be forced to order next time around.
And for dessert...don't miss the rich and decadent COFFEE MILKSHAKE which was oozing over the side of the glass. Whipped cream (fake, but who cares?!) was heaped on top and chocolate syrup laced the inside of the glass. Apparently LAKESIDE is also famous for their pies (seen top) so the waitress insisted that we try a slice of the APPLE - a la mode, no less. Well, twist our no-longer-so-bony arms, we finally acquiesced and were very happy that we did. The apples were sweet and perfumy and retained a touch of their texture and firmness. Personally, I prefer a more tart, tangy apple in my pie, but the crust made up for any disappointment in the filling zone. The flaky edge wasn't dense or cake-like and provided the perfect, airy envelope for the warm, cinnamon-laced apple center. LAKESIDE sells holiday pies and they fly out of there by the dozen. So get your orders to them in plenty of time.
LAKESIDE has everything but space. Don't forget that it's tiny so if you are coming on Saturday or Sunday, come early or prepare to wait a while. Remember to really look for the sign, otherwise you might pass right by it coming off the exit of the MERRITT. It is truly a wee slice of heaven, complete with classic signs from the 50's and charming bits of memorabilia. The coffee is nothing out of the ordinary and the food, although great, isn't really what makes this place a "must visit" establishment. LAKESIDE is more than a diner, it's an experience.
LAKESIDE DINER, 1050 Long Ridge Road Stamford. 203.322.2252
Mon-Fri : 6am to 3pm
Sat-Sun : 6am to 2pm