At Gregory's, which the team behind Mandolin Aegean Bistro opened five weeks ago in the Vagabond Hotel, eating can be as upscale or down-home as you like. There's a New York strip steak ($36) and an elegant caviar service ($30 for wild salmon or $95 for sturgeon). There's also a grilled cheese ($10), Cobb salad ($19), and a turkey dinner ($24) with gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.
Such was exactly what owner Anastasia Koutsioukis and chef/partner Roel Alcudia wanted to offer in an all-day diner in the space that has struggled to find its footing in the years since the old Biscayne Boulevard motel was restored to its former midcentury glory. The interior was partially refitted with dark wood veneers and wooden banquettes, providing an unmistakable diner feel while skipping over the cigarette smoke–laden atmosphere of yesteryear with white tile mosaic floors and bright lights that illuminate subway-tiled walls and an active open kitchen.
Yet Gregory's, which is named for Koutsioukis' grandfather, is more than just a widget that fills an open space in the Miami food scene. It's a testament to the immigrants who came to America and made it great.
In the late 1950s, her grandparents Gregory and Maria Zouglas emigrated from northern Greece to the United States, where they opened the diner the Acropolis on Euclid Avenue in St. Louis' West End.
"The diner of the 1950s was actually the equivalent of the bistro in France, an all-day eatery normally owned by family with approachable food, and that’s precisely why we went in that direction," Koutsioukis says.
Yet it was more than just a reliable gathering place for a meal. It was how the Zouglases created a new life for themselves.
"This isn't the story of Gregory; this to me is the story of every one of us. We all have grandparents, great-grandparents, or maybe our parents or even us, a first generation that’s living here and wanting to live our American dream," Koutsioukis says. "And Miami particularly is this melting pot of all of these different cultures, and that’s what the diner always represented."
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Hence at Gregory's, one can find classic soups ($12) such as an herby matzo ball with a very light broth (no chicken) and toothsome vegetables or a New England clam chowder. There's a nod to the Italian-American experience in the rigatoni with meat sauce ($20) and one to Spain in the stuffed piquillo peppers with tuna ($20). And the Greek sensibility that has made Mandolin such a long-standing success is here in salad form ($14) and in the all-day breakfast menu that includes a feta and tomato scramble ($12).
There's still so much more to cover, and only time will reveal it.
"We’re walking a very thin line, a fine line between a literal diner and what it is for us to have a diner feel," Alcudia says. "There will be movement on the menu with the seasons, and I'm trying to explore regional American cooking. For all intents and purposes, Miami is still considered part of the South, and that’s where I look."
Gregory's. 7301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-846-9130; gregorysmiami.com.