Anastasia Koutsioukis would drive by the constantly changing restaurant in front of the restored Vagabond Hotel and scheme.
“That needs to be a ’50s diner,” she would say to herself.
The Vagabond listened.
Koutsioukis, who built one of Miami’s most beloved restaurants in the Design District, Mandolin Aegean Bistro, has opened Gregory’s Diner at the Vagabond. She partnered with Mandolin’s longtime chef, Roel Alcudia, to design an all-day menu of diner staples with his own particular flair.
“It’s a modern-day diner,” she said.
The inspiration for Gregory’s: Her own family’s immigrant experience.
Koutsioukis’ grandfather, Gregory, was among a wave of Greek immigrants who fled his country amid a civil war and opened trusted greasy spoons throughout America, from the South to the Midwest.
He landed in St. Louis after World War II, where he opened an eggs-all-day kind of spot. None of the food was particularly Greek, but the simple fare kept the neighborhood running for 35 years.
“You could never call it a diner to his face because to him it was fine dining,” joked Koutsioukis, who worked summers at the restaurant. “He represents every line cook out there, working in the background. It’s an homage to that unsung hero.”
Alcudia focuses on a culinary fusion of Greek and Turkish influences at Mandolin, but Gregory’s will be more of a simple canvas. That simplicity doesn’t mean boring, though.
Salads like the Cobb include snow crab. Sandwiches like the patty melt use grass-fed beef. Throughout the menu, traditional diner dishes get the treatment from Alcudia to make them stand out, from fettuccine with clams to larger items like grilled and baked fish and braised heritage pork shoulder.
And what would a diner be without innumerable ways to order eggs (including with gravlax or a rib eye) and a stack of pancakes. Prices range from $9-$16 with larger entrees in the $18-$34 range. All sandwiches are $16.
Drinks from a full bar will include Bloody Marys and boozy milkshakes.
In the coming months, they also will open a separate lounge with a full liquor bar, styled in Hollywood Regency design, to dovetail into the Vagabond’s Miami Modern cues. Koutsioukis will call it Maria’s Living Room. (“We all have a Maria in our lives,” Koutsioukis said.) It will be open only during the week, as a place for locals to gather and relax after work.
“We didn’t want to turn it into a vibe-y, clubby space,” she said.
The restaurant opens for lunch and dinner with a weekend brunch before adding all-day breakfast in December, she said. The diner hopes to break a short track record for restaurants at the Vagabond, which has gone through three other concepts in four years.
“I’m excited because it’s such a departure from what we do at Mandolin,” Koutsioukis said. “We’re trying to be very conscientious of how we eat today.”
7301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
Hours: Noon to 11 p.m. daily