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Anything but ‘the usual’

Local man’s book examines 48 local diners and their culture

John Behiri, owner of Johnny B’s Glenmont Diner, stands behind the counter of his silver 1960s eatery. The diner is featured in Mike Engle’s new book “Diners of the Capital District,” along with about 47 other local establishments in the greater Capital District area.

John Behiri, owner of Johnny B’s Glenmont Diner, stands behind the counter of his silver 1960s eatery. The diner is featured in Mike Engle’s new book “Diners of the Capital District,” along with about 47 other local establishments in the greater Capital District area. Photo by Marcy Velte.

— Through his research, Engle has become a diner historian and local eatery aficionado. He said one of his favorite places to stop in for breakfast is Johnny B’s Glenmont Diner, which is featured in the book.

Owned by John Behiri since 2004, the eatery was formerly the Miss Glenmont and Uncle Milty’s Diner. The diner itself was built by the Silk City Ding Car Company in New Jersey in 1962.

“One thing I really like is the owner’s attitude,” said Engle. “It’s fantastic. When you go in there, it just shows he loves what he is going and takes pride in everything he does there.”

Behiri said diners are in his blood. His father opened the original Tops diner in Rotterdam more than 30 years ago. That restaurant is now operated by his uncle and cousin. Another uncle operates the Farmer Boy Diner in Colonie, while another uncle once operated the Metro 20 Diner in Guilderland before it was bought by the Pilarinos family and named the Capital City Diner.

“We’re a small, cozy place here,” said Behiri. “We try to evoke a warm atmosphere instead of the sterile, cold cookie cutter restaurants you see. Nothing against the chains, but we want people to feel comfortable like you’re coming to a friend’s house for lunch.”

This year, the diner was voted “Best Breakfast” by Capital Region Living Magazine and Engle said Johnny B’s deserves the accolade.

“I think what they do with breakfast is really creative,” he said. “He takes hot apples and puts them over a waffle. It’s almost like breakfast and dessert at the same time.”

Engle said he has other favorites. The Miss Johnstown Diner will always hold a special place for him as his first diner experience, but he also likes the Alexis Diner in Troy as a lunch destination and the Chuck Wagon Diner in Duanesburg because of its architecture.

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