Wholesome, straight-forward Dimitris Diner in Ridgefield is among the last of a dying breed

Photo of Jane Stern

We restaurant critics are guilty of using some high falutin descriptive words to lure readers into new restaurants. We revel in “cutting edge” or “fusion cuisine” or “gastro-molecular.” But try as I may to find a fancy pants descriptive for Dimitri’s Diner the best I could come up with is “Ol’ Reliable.”

Dimitri’s has been in Ridgefield since the mid 1990s but it seems ageless. If someone told me it had been around since the first World War, I would believe them. Not that there is anything cobwebby or antique laden about the place, but Dimitris is a cornerstone of family dining in Ridgefield. Not too long ago every Connecticut town had a “family” place where everyone was welcome. This sort of place was modestly priced, served traditional meals and always had the welcome mat out.

It is getting harder to find such places, not just in Ridgefield, not just in Connecticut, but anywhere. Fairfield County has no shortage of fancy Northern Italian, chi chi pubs, or Southern barbecues, but locating a good family place where everyone can find something they like on the menu is becoming rare.

I eat at Dimitri’s a lot. I love their upright “we try harder” atmosphere. I love that they claim to be open “eight days a week” and that they open the doors earlier and close later then any other eatery in town. I love the paper placemats that say “God Bless America” and “Life is Beautiful” among the ads for tire shops and barber shops. I love the lightning-fast service and the cleanliness of the dining room. It would be erroneous to call this diner “a greasy spoon.” It is spotless. I also adore that there is a serious warning on the menu that says “if you do not like the food served DON’T continue eating, let us know right away!”

Dimitris looks more like a coffee shop luncheonette then a traditional chrome-laden diner. But they earn their diner credentials with a menu so eager to please that it is the same gracious overkill as the boast that they are open eight days a week. This exuberance is the hallmark of a real diner.

There is pretty much something for everyone, American food standards: burgers, bacon and eggs, hot turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, and meatloaf like mama used to make, hopefully. Dimitri’s flaunts its Greek heritage with offering excellent gyros, lamb Kofti, spanakopita, Feta salads and baklava all traditional and all in enormous portions.

There are many Italian classics, too, as well as Tex Mex dishes like huevos rancheros, guacamole and burritos. Here you can find Jewish deli favorites like Rueben sandwiches and even the rarely seen egg cream! Dimitris serves a good selection of steaks and chops as well as mild kiddie foods, diet foods, health foods and just plain kitsch foods. Dimitris is one of the few places left on earth (outside a hospital) where you can order bright red Jell-O.

Is the food brilliant? Not really, but it is pretty good and it is enhanced by the serious concern of the kitchen for the diners’ happiness. When I dine here I always get the feeling that if I bemoaned the lack of Tibetan food there would be Yak Butter on the menu the next time I visited.

To my delight there is always a server, a busboy, or the owner a few feet away. All you have to do it lift a hand or cock an eyebrow and they appear at your table immediately. The dining room might not win any awards in Architectural Digest but the booths are capacious, and the air conditioning cranked on high.

Like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life, you will see the whole tableau of life in Ridgefield seated at the booths and counter. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, firemen, the local sports teams, police, senior citizens meetups, the town’s politicians and so forth. On Dimitri’s’ website and bulletin boards will be upcoming events like the contest for who grew the biggest pumpkin, or a play at the middle school. Dimitri’s is a tapestry of town life, mismatched threads on a unique loom that turn out a beautiful fabric.

No one would confuse Ridgefield with Mayberry R.F.D. (especially if you are looking for real estate and pay taxes here) but Dimitris is one of the few down-to-earth, everyman’s eateries around. How refreshing that they unironically and proudly proclaim “God Bless America” and still believe that “Life is Good.” In these challenging times of political and racial divisiveness, gender strife and clannish hatred for those who do not agree with your party line, Dimitri’s offers a small island of contentment along with your bacon and eggs.

Dimitri’s Diner

16 Prospect St., Ridgefield

Jane Stern, a Ridgefield resident, co-authored the popular “Roadfood” guidebook series with Michael Stern.