MERIDEN — The door is open and the regulars stroll in for eggs flipped over easy and a plate of hash browns.
“Thanks for coming,” Joumi Abdeslam tells a walk-in customer on the way out.
“I’m just flipping eggs for customers,” Abdeslam said. “I enjoy it. If people enjoy it, it makes me happy.”
The Landmark diner on West Main Street opened last week offering breakfast and lunch for the courtroom crowd, new customers or old-timers who remember the diner when it was Cassidies. The menu boasts the usual breakfast specials, omelets and sandwiches, but there are some surprises Abdeslam is anxious to share.
“This is Mediterranean salad,” he says passing over a small bowl of peppers, red onion, white onion, carrots, cucumbers, garbanzo beans and raisins in a lemon dressing. “There is no sugar in there.”
He also serves homemade soup, chicken, and a tomato, bacon and ham soup. The recipes come from his mother-in-law and his mother. Both get equal billing.
“I have 19 years of experience in restaurants,” Abdeslam said. “I want to change that to home cooking. We work with local farmers, everything is fresh, nothing is frozen.”
Abdeslam, who cooked at Nina’s Cafe and Westbrook Lobster among others, teamed up with Samir Hassan to operate the 71-year-old eatery. Landlord Henry Le renovated much of the interior and exterior. Abdeslam and Hassan did the rest.
The inside gleams from the new grill, backsplash, stools and renovated booths. Some customers such as Walter Rupert walk over from nearby downtown apartments to get their eggs and hash browns.
“It’s open and close to where I live at the (Community) Towers,” Rupert said.
In addition to Abdeslam, Hassan also hired his mother Ivette Hassan to wait on customers at the table.
“She’s the front staff,” Abdeslam teases.
The family had a restaurant in New Britain and are now working with Hassan in Meriden. Hassan is a Meriden native and architecture and design student who was a fan of the diner.
“It brought the best of both worlds,” Hassan said last month. “It tied into architecture and design and with what I learned from the family business”
Mediterranean and Spanish dishes on the menu include an omelet made of sausage, feta cheese, sun dried tomatoes and spinach, a plantain salad bowl, quesadillas, falafel and a kabob platter.
The small diner also serves shawarmah, a Middle Eastern dish consisting of meat cut into thin slices, stacked in a cone-like shape, and roasted on a slowly-turning vertical rotisserie or spit. Meat can be chicken, lamb, beef or pork piled on rice. There are also gluten free menu options.
Prices range from $5 for the Landmark special (two pancakes with two pieces of bacon and eggs) to $9 for specialty omelets. Sandwiches range from $5 to $10 for a Reuben and soup. Platters are $10 and come with rice and a salad.
Abdeslam said there is plenty of room for new food and eateries in the city’s downtown.
“People get tired of pizza places,” Abdeslam said. “People want to be treated well. There is enough business if you work. I came to Meriden to build a relationship with people first, then you have a business for life.”