Walk into the G & A Restaurant at 3802 Eastern Avenue in Highlandtown and you will step into a place that is as welcoming as it is nostalgic. The G & A, named for cousins Gregory and Alex Diacumacos, is the “Home of Baltimore’s Best Coney Island Hot Dogs.” It has been in business for eighty-two years.
“My mother would take me here for a special treat,” my companion told me, pointing to the green formica counter. “I’d sit and twirl on one of those stools and she’d talk to the waitresses. My mother was a waitress, too. She knew all the waitresses on Eastern Avenue.”
Larisa Dillinger was our waitress, “We think we might be related,” she replied when I asked her if she was descended from the famous gangster. “You know that wasn’t him they killed. He got away and he may have relocated to Annapolis.” Which is Larisa’s hometown.
We ordered the Coney Island hot dog ($2.00) and it was as good as advertised. Fresh chopped onions. Chili with a nice texture, not too zesty. The hot dog itself was spicy, flavorful. Juicy. The roll in which it was served was fresh and soft.
“Everything is made fresh,” explained Andy Farantos, the family’s third generation of owners. “Fresh ingredients. The ground beef we use in our chili is the same ground beef we use in our hamburgers. We get it fresh everyday from our butcher. Even our soups are all homemade. Nothing is microwaved.”
Along with the Coney Island hot dog, we also sampled the Coney Island hamburger ($2.50) which is served with a topping of chili and fried onions. The hamburger is not as spicy as the hot dog, but the combination of chili and fried onions – again in a fresh roll – was exceptional.
The G & A serves breakfast: two eggs any style, served with homemade fries and toast is $3.75. Two eggs with sausage, $4.75. A Spanish omelet, ham, onion, green peppers and mushrooms, topped with salsa and shredded cheese is $6.75. There are hot cakes for $4.50, or a breakfast sandwich, egg and cheese on rye, white or wheat for $2.40.
For lunch, the G & A offers a “Hot Holly” hoagie with roast beef, ham, bacon, provolone, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise for $6.75. “Avenue Original” sandwiches are served on rye, white or wheat bread and range from $3.50 for a grilled cheese to $4.95 for tuna or ham and cheese. A gyro on pita bread is $6.50.
The soup of the day is $2.95. Chili con carne supreme and Maryland crab soup are $3.95.
We ordered the French fries with gravy for $2.95. They were hot. The insides of the French fries were succulent. The taste reminded me of Thanksgiving mashed potatoes with gravy.
Larisa suggested the chocolate coke, a fountain coke with a squirt of Hershey’s chocolate syrup over shaved ice for $1.75. It’s a chocolate lover’s delight!
Owner Andy Farantos took over the restaurant after graduating from the University of Maryland with a degree in business and a minor in psychology. “I couldn’t leave Highlandtown,” he explained. “I grew up here. This restaurant is my family.”
Michelle Harris (left) and Catherine Warburton
Andy and his wife, Alexia have run the G & A since 1988. His father and uncle operated the business, inherited from his mother’s granduncle, Alex, one of the original owners, in 1966.
Catherine Warburton and Michelle Harris were having their “usual.”
“I’m eating the same thing I’ve ordered here for close to thirty years: two Coney Island hot dogs and the French fries with gravy,” stated Catherine.
Michelle liked her two hot dogs plain with yellow mustard and French fries without the gravy, though she liked to sprinkle them with extra salt.
“We come at least once a month from Armistead Gardens,” explained Catherine. “I remember when we could walk up and down Eastern Avenue, the stores would stay open late, and we’d always stop in here for our hot dog treat.”
I asked them if they were long time friends as well, and Catherine explained that Michelle was her adopted daughter. Catherine explained that she married her late husband, Tom, twice. In between their first and second union, Tom married Michelle’s half-sister. When Catherine agreed to remarry Tom, he asked her if she would take care of Michelle should anything ever happen to him. Catherine agreed, and for the past six years, Michelle has been Catherine’s “little sweety pie.”
Waitress Brandy Wilkey waved as she passed by. “Brandy is wonderful,” Catherine said. “The food here is nice and fresh, and I like the friendly, family atmosphere.”
My companion and I finished our meal with Andy Farantos’ homemade rice pudding. The recipe, Larisa told us, “Is all hidden in Andy’s brain.”
It was a sweet concoction with a milky, vanilla taste, sprinkled with cinnamon. Absolutely delicious.
G & A is one of the few original establishments left on Eastern Avenue. It is easy to see why so many people keep coming back. You not only enjoy a reasonably priced meal, you truly are welcomed and encouraged to feel at home.
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Caryn Coyle is an adopted Baltimorean. Aside from anything chocolate, her favorite foods are Chesapeake Bay crab, silver queen corn, and Maryland tomatoes. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.