Before there was IHOP and even Denny’s, since its founding in 1948, Glen’s Dinette has been serving breakfast and lunch to families and friends in the heart of Babylon Village.
Being inside Glen’s is like taking a quick trip back in time. Its walls are adorned with bits of nostalgia, from old photos of Babylon Village to vintage license plates from visitors as close as Islip to strangers from Florida, Oklahoma and even Hawaii. And the old-school checkerboard flooring and red counters flanked by red stools are features one might recall of Woolworth’s now-defunct soda fountain counter.
“When I first bought Glen’s in 1990, I was only 24 and I remember it was a hole in the wall,” recalls owner “Hapi” Auer, who says he always wanted own a small restaurant.
“I really loved the idea of having a local place…one of my uncles was a chef when I was a kid and I think that was an influence as well.”
Auer, who runs Glen’s with his wife Chrissy Auer, initially thought he would run the restaurant while finishing New York Institute of Technology cooking school in the evening. But a school dean told him it would be difficult and advised him to just buy the place and return to school when he could.
“Since then, I’ve worked at the restaurant full-time,” says Auer, who has worked at several Out East restaurants, including the former Starr Boggs in Westhampton Beach.
Growing up in Babylon Village as one of seven children, says Auer, learning to cook was as much a self-preservation as a passion.
“I’ve always loved cooking and as one of seven children, you better learn to cook if you want to eat!” He recalls.
When asked why he chose to run a breakfast and lunch, Auer said it was a logical choice.
“I’ve always loved breakfast,” he says, adding that he still does a lot of cooking, often replacing one of his five chefs who worked during the pandemic.
While Glen’s nostalgia is part of its appeal, it’s not the only reason some guests make the trip to Babylon from all parts of Long Island and beyond.
Among the signature and most popular dishes on the menu is the homemade corned beef hash, prepared from a recipe given to Auer by her mother.
Auer says Glen’s corned beef hash is so good it’s been on his breakfast menu since day one. “It’s a fan favorite. We eat about 100 pounds of corned beef every week.
Another favorite is the rockin’ Reuben sandwich, consisting of corned beef on grilled marbled rye with sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and melted Swiss cheese, which helped Auer win the affections of his wife Chrissy when they started dating. “We also sell hundreds of Reubens every week.”
Other big sellers include Idaho, with home fries, bacon, scallions, cheddar cheese and two eggs on toast; and the New Farmer’s Breakfast featuring grilled homemade sausage stuffing with poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce, served with roasted root vegetables, sweet potatoes, rutabagas and carrots. “People love it,” Auer says.
He points out that in his 32 years as owner of Glen’s, he has felt strong support from the local community.
“The people in town have been great…we have so many long-time customers, some who have been coming here before I even took over,” he says, adding that Glen’s is “a very legit place in his hometown. “.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for one of the cooks to come to your table and ask how everything is going, or for Auer’s wife, Chrissy, to take an order for breakfast.
Even John, a cook who works the front grill, is a throwback, rhythmically calling out commands in the kitchen, such as “add eggs Benedict” or “French toast.” Auer says the cook is a master multi-tasker, simultaneously preparing orders while calling others. “It’s not easy,” said Hapi.
Auer adds that in many ways, making breakfasts is more difficult than making a steak at an expensive steakhouse.
“In an expensive steakhouse, the waiter comes by once to ask you how you like steak and that’s it. But here, people want very personalized breakfasts, for example, easier eggs, well-done bacon, buttered toast, etc.
With an emphasis on quality, Glen’s uses a strong, high quality blend of coffee and artisan bread in several varieties.
“Right now places like Glen’s are having a renaissance,” Auer says, adding that when he was a kid there were a lot of places like Glen’s, but they started to disappear in the 1980s and 1990s with the arrival of franchises like IHOP and Panera. .
But, he says, Glen’s Dinette has survived, filling a niche for people looking for a breakfast and lunch experience that’s hard to replicate.
As the pandemic continues to cause issues like high food costs and labor issues, Auer says everyone is hurting, but he’s faced similar challenges before.
“During my 32 years, I have been through several recessions. You have to be agile and know how to manage things.
Auer also sympathizes with new businesses, such as those that have been open for five years or less, that may be “leveraged.”
Glen’s survived, in part by taking advantage of loans from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program and with the help of his family, loyal employees and even more loyal customers.
“People couldn’t buy enough food to help us support ourselves.”
As for the present, Auer says business is strong. “We are fine, thank God. Hopefully we can continue like this.
Glen’s Dinette is located at 23 E. Main St., Babylon. He can be reached at 631-804-0628. Visit at glensdinette.com.
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