The King of the Philly Diner

Greek-born Michael Petrogiannis has built a mini-empire snapping up landmarks like the Melrose and the Mayfair. But is he saving our diners? Or sucking the soul out of them?

It raises an interesting question: If Michael’s kids don’t want his diners, whom does Michael call? Walgreens?

A few mornings later, it’s dark and quiet on Snyder Avenue. The fork and knife on the Melrose clock say 6:30. And there it is, all lit up. Okay, not actually like a stadium. But inviting, like the oasis a neighborhood diner should be. Inside, my waitress, Lucille, is in a time warp, wearing her olden-days uniform and a badge that says 1990 — she says today is her 20th anniversary. She serves French toast that’s as good as you can get anywhere, and scrapple that’s, well, scrapple. The coffee, hey, you can get better coffee in a million places these days. The check is about eight bucks. The hands on the Melrose clock won’t let me see 15 years into the future of this place any better than they can, really, take anyone back to the way things used to be. But with a belly full of comfort, I know I’m all set until lunch.