We continue, after an absence, on our travels along the Long Island Railroad to explore our island, expand our palette and experience life in our own backyard. Today, we travel to Islip, along the Montauk branch, to the Oconee East Diner.
The atmosphere is friendly and when we walk in, we feel like we’re home. This is a stimulating extravaganza to the visual senses. If a diner ever married Disney World, this place would be their love child. Holiday decorations line the walls and explode from the ceiling, exciting my boys and feeding their senses. Here, the holidays are infectious and decorations are their specialty, along with their vast diner fare.
This is the place to be to escape from the mundane diner atmosphere and enjoy the humor that comes with an explosion of decorated splendor. Don’t come here if you want to remain anonymous and glum. Enter to be given a chance to be enveloped in adornment that matches the closest holiday and occasion.
We arrive to the entrance full of people. Those coming, those waiting and those going with a “bye, see you soon” all stand huddled together under the decorations from above. The genial nods and the easy expressions lead me to believe that this is not their first, nor their last, trip to this popular eatery. Everyone waiting is seated quickly and though the tables are plentiful, each server seems to greet their guests with the comfortable easiness that only those who know true food service can offer. We feel like we’ve known our waitress for years and her smile and care in taking our order is noted and appreciated.
We sit. The room is ablaze with excitement and laughter. Every so often we hear the wait staff coming around to sing one lucky diner a happy birthday song. Each chorus is completed with “Happy Birthday, Dear Customer…”, and followed by the soft laughter of those who weren’t expecting the punchline of the joke. My son John asks why they sing, “dear customUH”, and we all laugh, knowing that we are proud Long Islanders and a ‘customer’ is a ‘customuh’ on this side of the Hudson.
We order brunch and lunch and everything in between, and are so happy to be somewhere that will serve us anything at any time of the day. The boys opt for chicken fingers and kid pancakes, which arrive covering the plate and loaded with chocolate chips. I choose the Greek salad on recommendation from our waitress and am certainly not disappointed when it comes to our table.
There certainly is more to this experience than the eating. We eat and people-watch to our hearts’ content as the elated buzz is infectious and seems to travel the room in a dizzying frenzy. The only low for us comes when our meal ends and we have to make the trip back towards the station to catch our train home. We say “goodbye”, but really, more like a “see you later”, as I’m dying to know what this place looks like for Valentine’s Day.