Leo’s Coney Island is a diner that originated in the Detroit area in 1972. It was started by the Stassinopoulos brothers, Leo and Pete. Its famous Greek Salad dressing (a family recipe), chili, and other homemade dishes have helped the restaurant make a name for itself. Building on a reputation of quality food and great service, Leo’s began to open more restaurants around the Detroit area, and soon became a popular chain. There are currently 62 Leo’s Coney Islands, four of which are located in Genesee County: Grand Blanc, Fenton, on Miller Road in Flint Township, in Lapeer and the newest location in Davison. What you will find at all five of these area locations is clean and comfortable dining spaces, attentive service and an expansive menu of American comfort food and Greek specialties at reasonable prices.
My City Magazine made a stop at the Davison Leo’s and visited with General Manager, Eddie Alasad. The diner opened on March 9 of this year at the former site of Archie’s Restaurant, a longtime Davison eatery. Eddie said that Archie’s was in business for 43 years, and the owner didn’t want to sell to just anybody. “He wanted to sell it to someone who would take care of his customers,” Eddie reports. True to his wishes, the dining area and kitchen were completely renovated. “We wanted it to be light and bright,” he explains.
When thinking about a Coney Island restaurant menu, what often comes to mind are hot dogs topped with Coney sauce or chili and onions, hot French fries, juicy hamburgers, and comforting meals like hot beef or turkey sandwiches smothered in gravy. However, at Leo’s, the first thing that comes to mind for many of its loyal customers is the famous crispy-fresh Greek salad.
The Greek Salad is by far the top seller – a large bowl filled with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, pepperoncini, Greek olives, beets, chick peas, feta cheese and Leo’s famous Greek dressing. Eddie believes it is popular because the vegetables are brought in three times a week to ensure freshness. “It has to be fresh,” he says, “and our prep guy cuts everything by hand.”
Breakfast is very popular at the Davison Leo’s Coney Island. “We serve great breakfasts,” boasts Eddie. “It’s all about the presentation, and our customers get their eggs exactly the way they order them.”
Other favored breakfast options are crêpes, pancakes and French toast – especially on the weekends. ”Our Sunday brunch is huge!” Eddie exclaims. Red Velvet French toast was on the Archie’s Restaurant menu and was so well-received, Eddie decided to keep it on Leo’s menu. Another favorite, the Kitchen Sink Omelet, is stuffed with bacon, sausage, ham, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, mushrooms and cheese. The yummy ham and sweet potato hash is made with smoked honey ham tossed with sweet potatoes, bell peppers and onions, and topped with two farm-fresh eggs.
The broasted chicken is a huge seller in Davison, and diners also come in for the fish & chips, chicken kabobs and burgers. Leo’s offers a variety of healthy salads, such as Archie’s Walnut Salad (crisp romaine lettuce topped with walnuts, fresh apples, dried cherries, grilled chicken and raspberry vinaigrette) and the Michigan Salad, a delightful combination of romaine, dried cranberries and grilled chicken. “It’s an amazing salad,” says Eddie.
Friday night is all-you-can-eat fish & chips night. American comfort food, like stuffed cabbage, chicken pot pie, and liver and onions, are daily specials and can be enjoyed at all Leo’s restaurants. “We make the best goulash!” Eddie exclaims. Craving something sweet? Leo’s serves some tasty desserts including hot fudge sundaes, gourmet carrot cake and key lime pie.
Community involvement is also a priority for Leo’s; this year, the company sponsored 11 local baseball teams. “We like to give back to the people who support us,” says Eddie. In addition, the restaurants hand out VIP cards good for a ten-percent discount on meals, as well as roses for patrons on Mother’s Day, Sweetest Day and Valentine’s Day.
At Leo’s Coney Island, exceptional service is what it’s all about and according to Eddie, it’s the key to success. The Davison diner is one of three locations that remain open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. “We take pride in our service,” Eddie says. He can be seen walking around the dining room and talking with diners, even sharing hugs with younger patrons. “We take the extra step,” he says. “We want all of our customers to be happy.”
Photography by Mike Naddeo