Many locals remember the New Colony Diner at 568 Main Street which closed a few years ago. The Monroe Diner now stands in its place with a renovated building and signage. People have been calling and showing up at the new Monroe Diner for weeks to find out when it will open. On Monday morning, the wait was over. The restaurant opened its doors at 6 o'clock.
Late Monday morning, patrons ate breakfast in booths and around tables, and some sat on stools at the front counter.
"It's been soft and steady, so we're very happy," co-owner Donna Alatakis said. "The first selectman was here this morning. We're glad to be here. We were very nervous, but it's going smoothly so far. I hope everyone is patient with us in the beginning with our new place and new staff."
"Everyone has been welcoming," Alatakis added. "I think they're glad we're open."
The hours will be from 6 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Monday to Thursday, 24 hours on Friday and Saturday and the diner will be open until midnight on Sundays. It will soon have a website and a to-go menu.
Alatakis said some patrons have mentioned the old diner.
"They were wishing they had a place to go for home-fries," she said.
Now it's time for the Monroe Diner to forge its own identity.
"We hope to bring a sense of community," Alatakis said. "A diner becomes the hub of a community."
Her husband Dimitri agreed. He said, "A lot of times the diner is the soul of a community. It's the place you go to after plays, basketball games and late night meetings."
Describing how the Monroe Diner will be, Dimitri said, "Fast, clean, fresh and reasonably priced."
"And Friendly," Donna added.
Donna believes the Monroe Diner will be known for its cheese blintzes, which are made from a homemade recipe passed down from generations. Dimitri said the soups are amazing and that there will be daily chef's specials.
Karen French of Monroe used to be a waitress in the New Colony Diner in the '80s. Now she's a waitress at Monroe Diner.
"I think it's great," she said. I think it's a boon for the town. There is no other place like this. We need it. It's a family restaurant, a place for a nice sitdown meal."
"It's creating jobs," French added with a smile.
George and Marlene Dornes of Trumbull were the diner's first customers. They sat in a booth with a friend of theirs.
"We need a place like this," George said. "There are other places around, but not as good as this. This place is so elegant."
Of the interior, Marlene said, "It's done very classy, elegant and tasteful. It's elegant."
George said the diner serves "good, crispy bacon."
Michael and Ginger Thanasoulis of Trumbull saw the diner being built and decided to try it out on Monday. Michael had an omelet and Ginger had eggs with corned beef hash and hash browns.
"We like the decor and the 'diner charm,'" Ginger said. "It's not trendy. It still has that feel to it."
Charles Rega, who owns Out Front Farm, a pet food and farm supply business on Main Street in Monroe, sat on a stool at the counter. He lives in Newtown, but used to live in Easton for 35 years.
"I've been coming to this spot for over 40 years, since I was in my 20's," Rega said of the eateries that changed hands over past decades.
He remembers when the New Colony Diner closed. "We were all disappointed because this was the place to stop to get breakfast, lunch or even dinner — and it was nice."
Rega likes the Monroe Diner so far. He said, "The food is outstanding."