Alex Serroukas was born into a family of hard-working Greek immigrants with big dreams. In 1968 his father, Gus, opened the Double O Doughnut Luncheonette on Poughkeepsie’s Main Street; the Town and Country Diner in Hyde Park (in which his uncle was also a partner) followed in 1973. “I always tell people that I was raised by a wild pack of waitresses and line cooks,” says Serroukas, who admits that he, his brothers Nick and Peter, and cousins Kosta and Tommy, were constant fixtures in the diner. “My father and uncle heavily involved me and my brothers and cousins in the business,” he remembers. “And we really learned a lot from them.”
Apparently so. Because Serroukas and the rest of his generation of family members have built a successful Hudson Valley restaurant empire that continues to expand, even as other eateries around the region drop like flies in the dismal economy. Surely you’ve heard of the famous Eveready Diner in Hyde Park. That’s a Serroukas creation, as is the Double O Grill (two locations) and the Coyote Grill in Dutchess County, and the Rolling Rock Café in Kingston. While each of these popular eateries clearly has its own personality (and menu), they do share a certain appeal. Each hot spot sports an oversized dining room decorated with loads of neon and nostalgia, and a giant menu featuring fun and fine food. Clearly, these restaurants tap into the public’s desire for the comfort of yesteryear. “Our vision has always been to give guests an experience that is truly unique,” says Serroukas.
Their latest undertaking is the Standard in Albany: a hip, upscale throwback to early Las Vegas supper clubs, which opened last December. “It’s been very, very busy — a little overwhelming, actually,” admits Serroukas. The bustling new eatery hasn’t completely overwhelmed the family, however; plans for a second Eveready Diner, to be located in Brewster, are well underway. And the family has no plans of letting up. “We love creating restaurants,” Serroukas enthuses, “and we never want to stop.”
Once featured on the Food Network’s Guy’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, the Eveready Diner is housed in a chrome Art Deco-style building. Serroukas describes it as “the quintessential diner, from the design to the fabrication to the menu.” Since it opened for business in 1995, guests have been streaming through the doors — actor Tom Hanks has stopped in on several occasions — to get their hands on the now-famous grub, which includes everything from breakfast platters and deli sandwiches to their one-of-a-kind creamy shakes.
â–º The Eveready Diner
4189 Albany Post Rd., Hyde Park
The Coyote Grill is meant to resemble a 1950s American roadhouse, but with a sleeker look and none of the “garage sale” décor typical of chain restaurants. “We were looking for something a little more sexy and contemporary than your T.G.I. Fridays or Applebee’s,” Serroukas says. “We wanted it to be versatile: a cool place for a first date and a great family restaurant.” His family hired a designer to custom-make trendy light fixtures and choose vintage photographs for the walls. They also created a versatile menu with a bit of an edgy, Latin feel. A glowing martini bar and extensive cocktail list round out the package. The Coyote Grill was such a hit when it opened its doors in 2003 that even the owner of national chain Ruby Tuesday came to check it out. “We eventually noticed that in the years after we opened Coyote, a lot of the national chains adapted to that style as well,” said Serroukas.
â–º The Coyote Grill
2629 South Rd., Poughkeepsie
The Serroukas’ original 1950s, Hollywood-themed roadhouse design was first developed for its Rolling Rock Cafés in Rhinebeck, Kingston, and Wappingers Falls in the early ’90s. Each location incorporated that “garage sale” décor — but with a bit more glamour than was used by the chain restaurants (which soon began to follow suit). Today, the only remaining Rolling Rock Café is in Kingston; check it out to experience the fun and funky vibe, as well as some fabulous food.
â–º Rolling Rock Café
1536 Rte. 9, Wappingers Falls
In 2005, the Rolling Rock Café in Rhinebeck was reinvented as a more sophisticated and upscale version of its former self. Serroukas said that the vision for Double O was similar to that of Coyote Grill, but with more globally-influenced cuisine: “We basically concentrated our efforts through more of a martini culture.” Hanging star-shaped and striped lamps, as well as contemporary prints, adorn the restaurant’s colorful interior. Even more attractive are the menu items, ranging from Coconut Shrimp Lollipops served with a sweet Thai chili sauce to macaroni and cheese topped with prosciutto and truffle oil. Don’t forget to check out the extensive martini list.
â–º Double O Grill
6595 Rte. 9, Rhinebeck
â–º 1536 Rte. 9, Wappingers Falls
The Standard is the family’s vision for a supper club-like restaurant. “We want our guests to step back into early Las Vegas, to the Rat Pack days,” says Serroukas. “We wanted something electric and high-energy, with that whole 1940s mod design where everything is really futuristic-looking.” With tile, stone and wood accents, intricate stained glass art, and huge multicolored panels with era-appropriate prints, it seems they’ve succeeded. A bit more upscale than its mid-Valley cousins, the Crossgates Mall’s newest addition has 350 seats and features a menu with a selection ranging from burgers and steaks to seafood. Notable cocktails include the Lychee Martini and the Frozen Bellini, and with entrées like savory bouillabaisse (shellfish and sea bass simmered in a tomato saffron stock with garlic and fresh herbs) and horseradish-crusted filet mignon wrapped in bacon, there are certainly enough dining choices to pair with them.
â–º The Standard Restaurant and Lounge
1 Crossgates Mall Rd., Albany