Man About Town / Sitting at the Circle with a cup of joe
Where the Old Post Road and Post Road join beside the Fairfield Inn on the outskirts of Fairfield's downtown sits the Circle Diner. For nearly seven years, the family-friendly eatery has been dishing out hearty breakfast, lunch and dinner fare seven days a week. It seemed a good place to roost for a spell on an early December Sunday morning.
Signs of the holiday season were evident here including twinkling Christmas trees at the front entry, delicate countertop displays, garland and wreaths in appropriate spots and striped red bows adorning overhead lighting.
Hostess Danielle was manning the front desk this morning, with managing partners Gus Tsilfides and Maria Lalvay providing oversight. Gus and Maria are two of six partners of the nearly 3,000-square-foot restaurant.
A crew of 13 waitresses, all dressed in blue polos and black pants, worked the deck, shuttling steaming plates of omelets, stacks of pancakes and towers of waffles to the hungry masses that steadily streamed through the door.
The place was as toasty as the piping hot bran muffin that waitress Elena delivered tableside and abuzz with conversation, laughter and the clinking of silverware. It was a happy, welcoming environment reflected in the faces of patrons.
At one adjacent table, a group of seven spoke about a big upcoming football game.
A couple and their infant daughter, who was propped in a high chair and tapped a sippy cup on the table, happily chatted with another couple that had joined them. Soon, blue-eyed Elena delivered Cokes and egg sandwiches to them.
A family of six packed into a front booth near the door tackled their breakfasts. One little boy, with a Red Sox T-shirt and sporting close-cropped hair, crammed a burger into his gullet while stirring a hot chocolate.
A pair of seniors nestled into a corner booth and considered items on the menu. They engaged each other in conversation and seemed quite happy in the twilight of their lives.
Gus plopped down for a bit to talk about Circle. His enthusiasm was obvious.
"The kids bring the parents in and when they're done eating, they love to get their lollipops at the front counter," he said.
Gus mentioned there are 300 items on the menu and that anyone can get anything at anytime. The partner also spoke about the good community work the diner performs, such as hosting a Kennedy Center fundraiser breakfast every September.
As we spoke, more faces, more families, more sports logos and more excited bits of chatter merged collectively in this delightful detour. There seemed to be no end to the assault and one wondered if the official capacity limit of 210 would be tested.
The wait staff kept their cool through the bustle and din, wearing a path to the kitchen and all its stainless steel equipment and activity. There, the cooks worked grills and pots and skillets in a measured methodical way, knocking out orders as quickly as they were submitted. It was clear the owners had cottoned on to a formula that worked well here.
As Danielle grabbed stacks of bright yellow menus and led the continued arrivals to their tables, Gus worked the register and bundled up and passed off to-go bags containing food that had been too overabundant to consume in a sitting. A generous helping at a good value was certainly part of the successful game plan.
"Goodbye, thank you!" Gus called to a departing couple. His adieu reminded me that I had best giddy-up as well, though I would have been perfectly content lingering through the lunch hour in this pastel-hued, chrome-trimmed emporium. With reluctance, I removed myself, pondering where I might drop in next in my "Man About Town" adventure.
Mike Lauterborn's "Man About Town" column appears every other Friday in the Fairfield Citizen.