For Breakfast

T he title of Breakfast Served Any Time All Day, a 2004 book of essays on poetry by the late US Poet Laureate and Hamden native Donald Hall, is a metaphor for the rich and comforting ways poetry can fill us up. But it was the literal idea of all-day breakfast service that brought me back to Branford’s Parthenon Diner for the first time since COVID-19.

My friend and I arrived at the tail end of a weekday lunch hour. We were greeted by owner John Sousoulas, who was about to take his own lunch break. In front of him was a bowl piled high with lightly charred shrimp, roasted corn, chunks of avocado and roasted pepper slices—one of the restaurant’s new Healthy Bowls selections. It looked delicious and, for a moment, made me consider abandoning my thoughts of a luxuriously late breakfast.

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But only for a moment. Our menus arrived just in time for me to refocus, though I did decide to stray from my usual Western Omelet ($9.50). Instead I asked Sousoulas what was most popular among the new list of poached egg offerings. The California Benedict ($12.50)—poached eggs with bacon and avocado, open-faced on oversized English muffins, topped with hollandaise sauce and flanked by home fries—was his immediate response, confirming what had already been my tentative choice.

My companion, a Parthenon first-timer not predisposed to lunchtime breakfast, asked Sousoulas for a recommendation among Parthenon’s Greek specialties. “The Sampler,” he answered with a confident grin. When the $17 plate arrived, brimming with portions of moussaka, spanakopita, gyro and chicken souvlaki garnished with olives and feta, it was a sight to behold. Despite the dominance of American dishes and the migration of a few vegetarian, gluten-free and paleo options onto the menu over the years, Greek food is still at the heart of Parthenon. My friend raved over the tangy moussaka filling, the delicate sweetness of the spanakopita crust and the tenderness of the gyro. “You know,” she said to Sousoulas when he stopped by to check on us, “This could easily serve two people.” “Oh, yes,” he agreed, his eyes twinkling. “Especially with a glass of wine, some ouzo?”

We all laughed, which was a good sound to hear in a restaurant that, like so many others, has struggled in the past year and a half. Sousoulas, who, in previous years, expanded his business from this single diner into The Diner Hospitality Group, encompassing restaurants in Mystic, Old Saybrook and Danbury, seems at peace with where things have landed at Parthenon. “We managed to build a beautiful outdoor patio,” he says, “which is still being used, and [now] we are open for indoor dining at 100% capacity. Needless to say, it has been a difficult time adjusting to the new normal during this pandemic, but we have managed to work through it.”

Personally, I’m glad they did. Settling into Parthenon and raising a forkful of breakfast anytime to my mouth feels a lot like taking a bite of normal.

Parthenon Diner
374 East Main St, Branford (map)
Daily 7am-10pm
(203) 481-0333

Written by Nancy McNicol.

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Nancy McNicol is a retired librarian and former teacher who enjoys strolling around New Haven imagining its earlier days. But she’s just as happy curled up with her cat and a good book or playing with her grandson, Simon.

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