Truly - The Place to Be

Allow me to throw out a couple of names to see if you have a reaction. Sarah. George. Whom did you think of? A friend? A relative? Let me add some more names and group them together. Jimmy, Sarah, George, Gus and Helen. Did you have an “aha” moment? If you have ever frequented The Place to Be, you probably did.

I have devotedly dined at The Place to Be for about 20 years. If I remember correctly, my parents discovered the eatery. They would go there every Friday night to eat and socialize with their friends. Before long, I was going there with my then boyfriend. We went during the week and ate gyros. It’s always better when both people in a couple are eating gyros because they can leave your breath downright stinky. Then, I discovered the weekend breakfast. Fast, affordable, abundant and oh-so-satisfying. A nap after this breakfast is necessary.

Somewhere between boyfriends and the friends of my parents moving, the restaurant became our new family dinner table. Sometimes, we would all go together. Other times, when my mom needed space and did not want to cook, my dad and I went together. What a set up. My dad ate, we visited and I had a free meal. My sister and brother soon caught on to the concept and joined us. To this day, it is still the sweetest set up.

Over the years, I have observed a merger of our lives with the restaurant. I watched George bus tables as a young boy and have money slipped to him on the side. All of the older women crooned, “Ah, he is so cute.” Today, he probably gets a similar reaction, now from the young ladies stopping to eat there. One time, Gus took leave of The Place to Be. Maybe nobody else noticed, but our family did. Could we continue to dine there without Gus? But, he returned, and from our seats it appeared all was well again.

Helen was a huge support when I was getting married in the Greek Orthodox Church. She shared any inside scoop that my Catholic family would need, even her daughter’s wedding video with my mother and me. Sarah and my parents became grandparents around the same time. It was exciting to share and compare our joys.

Now, our family has introduced a new generation to The Place to Be. My daughters refer to the restaurant endearingly as “Gus’s Place.” The pancakes are their favorite: big, fluffy pancakes with the whole container of syrup soaked into them. “Pap Pap likes blueberry pancakes but we like ours plain,” is the mantra I hear if we even come close to Gus’s Place.

My girls find it commonplace to be spoken to in Greek and English by the staff and will probably be disappointed when they find out that I only speak English. They know where the booster and high chairs are kept and run to grab their seats. They also know our favorite spot is the window booth downstairs and are always hopeful that nobody else has claimed our spot. The most important item to them in the restaurant is the lollipop bucket under the cash register. Sometimes the girls remember their good manners and wait for their treat. Other times they rush and fight over the bucket. No one there gets mad. It’s okay – they’re kids.

For young, old, single or with family in tow, The Place to Be is one of Lakewood’s best places to go for a home-cooked meal. What’s better than the meal so good your mom could have made is the warm, homey feeling that The Place to Be exudes?
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Volume 3, Issue 2, Posted 9:09 PM, 01.15.07