Emily's Family Diner in Clarence is the kind of place where you can stick a quarter in a gum ball machine, see "God Bless America" on the wall and buy a Tootsie Pop on your way out the door.
To eat here is to revisit a simpler time, a time before free-range eggs were a thing, gluten was a craze and non-GMO a buzzword as much as a religion. Sometimes it’s nice reversing directions for nostalgia’s sake.
We don’t find ourselves in Clarence often and were excited to check out the establishment. We slid into one of the cushioned booths. The table includes the usual diner fixings like jelly packets and condiment bottles. Crayons and coloring books are available for children.
The space is airy and bright. The dining area is surrounded by windows framed with cozy curtains and the floor checkered in retro black and white. The floors are a smidge dirty and menus a little greasy, but I wouldn’t trust an immaculately clean diner, anyway. It wouldn’t feel right.
Service is friendly — and fast. Our waitress brought us drinks and explained the specials, along with what the regulars like including eggs Benedict and the corned beef and hash omelette. I landed on the eggs Benedict ($6.95), which she recommended. Others ordered the Texas burger ($8.50) and chicken souvlaki wrap ($8.25). We started with loaded fries ($5.95).
During lunch, the place is mostly full. To our right, a grandmother enjoyed a meal with her granddaughter, catching up over comfort food, and in front of us, parents were teaching their children how to use forks. A smattering of diners sidled up to the counter, where the open kitchen allowed them to hear the sizzle of grease and clanking of pans as cooks fried up plates of goodness.
The eggs Benedict was the best I’ve ever had, at the best price. I liked the taste of the creamy Hollandaise sauce and appreciated that the ham is crisped. For the side, I ordered half hash browns, half home fries. Both were excellent. The eggs were cooked just right — not too runny.
My only gripe is that when I was almost through with the second egg, something crunchy hit. A shell fragment. A bit more judiciousness from the cook, and these would receive the highest praise.
The Texas burger is true to its namesake state: huge. It is delicious. The souvlaki wrap features tender, marinated chunks of chicken. It, too, is a hit. All the French fries arrived in the only acceptable manner: crispy. Our loaded fries were generously showered with real bacon crumbles and ample cheddar cheese. We left with lunches for the next day.
An array of omelets are available — one notable one with corned beef hash — and all are served with a side of potatoes and toast ($6.95 to $7.95). Pancakes, waffles and French toast also are on the menu ($3.95 to $7.50). For lunch, a variety of soups, sandwiches, salads and wraps are served. Everything is under $10.
I don’t suspect Clarence has many places like Emily’s, where diners enjoy a sit-down meal in a place that feels like yesteryear, all while getting an exceptional value for their dollar.
Address: 9980 Main St., Clarence (759-1886)
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday through Thursday. Friday open until 8 p.m.
Parking: Ample parking available
Special note: Cash only.
Gluten-free options: None of the breads are GF, but many other GF options are on the menu.