Of all the Reuben and tuna melt-peddling, pancake and egg-slinging joints in the Sunshine State, Oakland Park restaurant Peter Pan Diner has just been declared the best.
The general-interest family magazine Reader’s Digest picked the 44-year-old eatery last week in its ranking of the most memorable and delicious greasy spoons across the country — based, it said, on a rigorous scientific method of investigating “customer ratings, Tripadvisor scores, and local gossip to find the absolute best diner in every state.”
While other enduring pit stops just as deserving spring to mind — Lester’s, the Floridian, Olympia Flame, for example — it’s easy to imagine why Peter Pan wins the crown. The distinctive green-and-white building with a Disney Lost Boy on its logo, perched where Oakland Park Boulevard meets Dixie Highway, is a whole nostalgic vibe, refusing to grow up even as Fort Lauderdale sprouts skyscrapers around it.
Opened in 1979 by Panagiotis Kourkoumelis, Peter Pan has courted regulars as much for its belly-filling breakfasts as for its Greek specials, like marinated pork kabobs, pastitsio and “Greekified” stuffed cabbage rolls. Since 2001, Koukoumelis’ son, Jeronimos, has operated the diner.
Its 1990s-inspired dining room — massive, low-key, with palm-leaf ceiling fans and many hanging planters — seems to stretch to the horizon, which is actually a separate full-liquor bar in the back. And its menu, at five pages (double-sided!), is an exercise in restraint, touting every comfort-food dish imaginable from corned beef hash and Mi Hammi Slammi (eggs, pancakes, ham) for breakfast to lamb shanks and moussaka for dinner.
The brown gravy that coats an open-faced turkey, the cucumber-flecked tzatziki sauce that glistens inside a chicken gyro, even the pat of butter that melts in a cocoon of mashed potatoes is all housemade, prepared by the cooks. They even bake the desserts and pastries, including platters of strawberry-crowned, New York-style cheesecake, baklava and carrot cake that beckon at the entrance.
Here, the waitstaff have been scribbling shorthand orders on blue-striped checks for decades, and seem to have missed their calling as acrobats, judging from the six plates of meatloaf they can balance on one arm.
Peter Pan Diner is at 1216 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Oakland Park. Visit MyPeterPanDiner.com or call 954-565-7177. To see the full Reader’s Digest rankings, go to rd.com/list/most-iconic-diner-every-state.