by W.B. King
More than a diner, El Dorado West served as a beloved touchstone for locals and travelers alike. For many Tarrytown residents, it was a second home where food, friends and family melded into a specialty dish of sorts. But this 16-year tradition ended in February when the line cook hit the bell for the last time and said: Order up!
“Our customers are so upset,” said El Dorado West’s General Manager Soula Dimeas. “You buy a car maybe every three years, but people go to the diner sometimes five days per week to eat breakfast or lunch. We always had people coming from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut—it was a meeting place.”
In May 2016, El Dorado West’s $35,000 per month lease was not renewed. The property owners instead offered a month-to-month lease, which management agreed to. With designs of expanding its existing operations, Tarrytown Honda approached the property owners and agreed to a $60,000 per month lease, said Dimeas.
“Honda wants to build a big building here. Our building is 8,500 square feet,” she said. “Initially, they wanted to build a building that was 22,000 square feet. I don’t know where their deal is now, but as of February 28, we are no longer here.”
Not on the Menu
For native Tarrytown resident Zach Moore, the diner will be fondly remembered. El Dorado West, he said, was a “rite of passage” for him and his friends.
“This is where my core group of friends, my non-blood brothers, would go every Sunday in high school. We sat in the big back booth ordered coffee, waffles fries with melted mozzarella and a big tub of fake gravy,” said Moore, who is a bartender at The Huddle in Sleepy Hollow. “There are lots of lasting memories in that place.”
Whereas other patrons might have ordered meatloaf on the regular menu, Moore’s fondness for meatloaf was expressed on the table-side juke box. “I would play ‘Bat out of Hell’ or The Bee Gees—you know, just to annoy my friends,” he recalled with a sly smile.
Sleepy Hollow resident Helen Carlson Del Vecchio said her family frequented the diner often enjoying breakfast and dinner offerings. Among her favorite meals were waffles with fresh cut strawberries and El Dorado’s chicken soup.
“Sometimes I would take my daughter there after her Sleepy Hollow High School theater performances. A bunch of students, both actors and crew, met to celebrate the show they did,” said Del Vecchio. “The diner would open up the room to accommodate the large group. We have no other late night, big group meeting place without reservations locally.”
Another Diner Down
The closing of El Dorado West comes on the heels of Sleepy Hollow’s Horsemen Diner shuttering its windows. For diner enthusiasts, Tarrytown’s Bellas Restaurant is the remaining diner option. And while loyal patrons can visit El Dorado East in Elmsford, Dimaes said there weren’t realistic options to keep El Dorado West open less matching the new monthly rent or purchasing the property for an estimated $12 million.
“If it wasn’t for them [Honda], they would have still rented to us,” she said. “A few years ago it was banks, banks, banks and now its car dealerships and more car dealerships—what can you do?”
Aside from El Dorado East, El Dorado operates diners in Scarsdale and Ossining. At the time of its closing, El Dorado West employed 36 people. “We offered everyone a job. They might not get the same hours or the same amount of hours,” she said. “But no one is out in the streets because of this.”
For Dimeas, who began her career in 1973 as a waitress at El Dorado East, the closing of El Dorado West is dismaying. The employees and the community, she said, are her extended family.
“People were coming in during the last week just to get one last meal and say goodbye,” she said. “I saw customers grow up and then come back with their kids. When I opened here, I brought with me two dishwashers who still work here today. The employees, the customers—we all grew up together right here, but now it’s over.”