Swan St. Diner: A Vintage Diner Given New Life at Larkin
With the combined talents, vision and resources of the Zemsky family and beloved Buffalo diner chef Amanda Amico (Amy’s Place, Amy’s Truck), a vintage diner has been lovingly, faithfully restored—and just like that, with a lot of talent and a bit of magic, the Swan St. Diner is one of Buffalo’s best spots for casual eats.
One of the city’s most popular and busy spots—it seats about 50 guests at a time (during normal service)—hungry breakfast and lunch goers are filling their cravings for the new-twist-on-old-school diner fare. There are big breakfasts (try the house biscuits) and rib-sticking, tummy-pleasing mains like their rotating pot pies (seek out the creamy mushroom chicken if available) with stuffing replacing the top crust.
Co-owners Harry Zemsky and Amico have partnered with the rest of the creative team—dad Howard Zemsky saw the vintage 1937 Sterling Diner while near Newark, NY and cooked up the idea to purchase it and bring it “home” to Larkinville; among other contributions, mom and artist Leslie Zemsky designed the wall paper, featuring classic medallions painted by local artists.
Harry Zemsky is glad to be along for this ride in particular. “The diner is a perfect piece of the puzzle in our plan to add reasons for people to come to Larkin Square,” said Zemsky. “It adds a weekend option. It’s going to be a really solid breakfast and lunch space, with great food and great service.”
The diner was built by J. B. Judkins Co. of Merrimac, MA. Like all Sterling diners, it was originally made in four-foot sections and bolted together on location. At 50 feet, it’s one of the company’s longer models. The original diner was trucked the 100 miles from Newark to Buffalo, and has undergone a complete renovation, as well as had a kitchen added on.
Amico is always excited about the menu. “We’ve brought back scratch diner cooking—we’re not popping hash out of a can,” she said. “The menu is responsive to seasonal and available ingredients. We can make something a little new, like Harry’s idea for pumpkin waffles.”
Versus the process to design and select every element of his other business interior (Hydraulic Hearth), Zemsky said he’s enjoyed the requirements of sticking to the property’s historic décor.
“It’s been fun working on the rehab project in a historic space,” he said. “It’s cool to imagine what it used to be, and see it come back to its former glory. I can’t get enough of being in this place.”
Pies by local company Fairy Cakes add to the nostalgic air. “They probably sold pies in this diner in 1937,” posited Amico.
“Diner breakfast food is the ultimate comfort food,” added Zemsky. “Your body is still waking up, you get some coffee, and I like the classic: bacon or sausage, two eggs over easy, and home fries.”