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Uncle Joe’s Diner serves nostalgia with great food

Southtowners of a certain age may remember the original Uncle Joe’s Diner, opened by a real guy named Joe Gargano in 1974, along Route 20 in Hamburg. In 1991, the diner moved down the road to its present location.

The interior is fun, with traditional pinkish-turquoise diner hues. Quirky windsocks outline a partially enclosed dining area.

[PHOTO GALLERY: Uncle Joe's Diner]

The menu is pure nostalgia, starting with its retro look. We loved the little bird tweeting out “Delicious and refreshing orange juice to start your day.” (A simpler time for tweeting.)

In true diner form, there are numbered items. The No. 1 is a combination plate three eggs, pancakes or French toast, bacon or sausage ($8.99). The No. 3 is corned beef hash and eggs ($8.99) — helpfully outlined with “heavenly” above it.

Uncle Joe's Diner's veggie omelet. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Numbers continue through omelets to No. 10, a bacon and American cheese omelet made with a whopping four eggs, served with toast ($8.99). For a dollar less, omelets can be made with two eggs.

We love breakfast and were tempted by the idea of Joe’s malted Belgian waffle ($7.39/$9.39 with fruit) and the LA cinnamon swirl bread with cinnamon glaze ($9.99), but went with sandwiches for our dinner.

But first two soups — a creamy potato ($3.79, $1.99 added to a sandwich) and chili ($3.99). The tasty potato was velvety with small chunks of potato. Chili was thick, with lots of meat and beans. We like a little more heat, but we get why UJ’s keeps it mild.

Uncle Joe's Diner's turkey Reuben. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

A chicken salad sandwich (or albacore tuna salad) can come on regular bread with lettuce and tomato ($7.99), or our way, on a lovely toasted large croissant ($8.19). The chicken salad was creamy and flavorful, not too much mayo. A little less iceberg perhaps, but a solid choice.

From the super melts, the turkey Reuben melt ($9.69) was a triple-decker sandwich on perfectly grilled rye with plenty of kraut and Swiss cheese. (No Thousand Island dressing as requested.)

Uncle Joe's Diner's steak Philly sub. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Never having met a meatloaf sandwich ($8.59) I didn’t like, Uncle Joe’s was no exception. I struggled though — hot roast beef, turkey or pork loin sandwich ($8.99)? Served on wheat as requested, the meatloaf was grilled before hitting the bread, giving it a nice little crusty edge. Covered in just enough flavorful gravy, the sandwich was a winner, even though technically eaten with a fork.

Chips, fries or applesauce come with sandwiches. We had all three. Chips were kettle chips, so no disappointment there. Fresh-cut fries were hot and good (with skins left on), and applesauce was a big cup, not the small side we envisioned.

Uncle Joe's Diner's beef on weck with fries. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Uncle Joe’s menu is large, with burgers ($8.99-$10.79), wraps (all $8.99), sandwiches ($4.99-$10.49) and breakfasts for Cheap Eaters.

Entrée salads start at $9.99 to $12.69; dinners $12.99 to $19.99. All come with soup or salad, potato or rice, vegetable and bread.

Three other diner standards were equally good: the service, coffee and our shared slice of luscious chocolate mint cream pie (more chocolate than mint) that we spotted in Uncle Joe’s dessert case at the entrance. Just enough to satisfy our sweet tooth.

With 43 years under its belt, we feel safe cementing Uncle Joe’s as one of Western New York's really good iconic diners.

Uncle Joe's Diner
4869 Southwestern Blvd. (Route 20), Hamburg; unclejoesdiner.com
Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 11 p.m, Friday; 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; and 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Menu: Breakfast served all day.
More: Cash or credit card. ATM on site. Monthly Tuesday cruise nights May to September.

Gluten-free options: Gluten-free bread.
Wheelchair-accessible: Yes

Uncle Joe's Diner is at 4869 Southwestern Blvd. in Hamburg. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

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