Ownership of decades-old Greenpoint staple Three Decker Diner (695 Manhattan Ave.) has recently changed hands. But, rest assured, the new owners are doing everything they can to maintain the mainstay’s integrity.
Restaurant industry veterans, Gavin Compton and Eduardo Sandoval, took over Three Decker Diner in July 2022. These names may ring a bell as both Compton and Sandoval run local business in North Brooklyn. Compton is the owner of local coffee chain Variety Coffee Roasters, and Eduardo Sandoval operates local burger chain Blue Collar.
Compton’s Variety Coffee first opened in Williamsburg at 368 Graham Ave. in 2008, and now has seven locations throughout the city, including one in Greenpoint at 142 Driggs Ave., and a dedicated roasting facility in East Williamsburg.
Compton told Greenpointers that Sandoval was one of Variety’s first regulars, and the pair quickly became close friends. When Compton opened his first restaurant in 2010 called Miller’s Tavern, Sandoval left Manhattan’s Landmarc to work as the sous chef at Miller’s and ended up running the kitchen there.
In 2012, Compton opened the original Blue Collar at 160 Havemeyer St. with his partner from Miller’s, and now, Blue Collar has three locations, going on four. Compton also partnered with a former Variety barista to open Ops in Bushwick and Leo in Williamsburg.
In the meantime, Sandoval had his own restaurant in Prospect Heights and pop ups called El Bronquito. In December 2019, Sandoval returned to work alongside Compton, as a partner, to manage Blue Collar. While running Blue Collar, Sandoval went on to open Long Island City’s Top Quality, and now oversees Three Decker, Blue Collar and Top Quality.
Greenpointers spoke to Three Decker Diner’s new owners about their decision to add another restaurant to their portfolio and their vision for the future of the diner.
Greenpointers: You guys have a lot going on. What made you decide to buy Three Decker Diner?
Co-Owner Gavin Compton: My first job was at a 24-hour diner in the East Village, and it has always been a dream of mine to have my own one day.
Opening a diner from scratch didn’t feel authentic, so I waited for one to take over. Three Decker Diner has been around since 1945 and had character. It was important to me to find something that had character already. It wouldn’t be true to the diner experience if it was new.
We don’t know a whole lot about the ownership of Three Decker prior to 1977, but I can tell you that in 1977, the owners of The Royal, a 24-hour diner kitty-corner to Three Decker (now called Lite Bites), purchased the restaurant from the original owner, George Koutsouradis and his partner Mike Sakis. They ran Three Decker, along with Jimmy, their chef from The Royal. At some point along the way, they were able to purchase the building. They sold the business to Jimmy in 2010, and Jimmy and his daughter, Irene, took the reins.
Just before the pandemic, Jimmy was looking to retire and began the search for a successor. Ed and I heard about it, and sprung at the opportunity. We’ve been working in the neighborhood for 15 years, and I’ve lived a short walk from it since 2004. I’ve always loved its bones.
Not to get too earnest, here, but affordable neighborhood diners are an increasingly endangered breed of restaurant in New York City. It was very important to Jimmy and the former owners to keep the business going and to see Three Decker make it to (at least) its 100th birthday.
Co-Owner Eduardo Sandoval: During the first two weeks after we took ownership, Jimmy and his daughter showed Gavin and I the ropes. They told us about the regulars and introduced us to people. It was hard to remember everyone’s orders and preserve all of those relationships that Jimmy had. It was humbling! But now it’s rewarding to see how excited the regulars and staff are for us.
Greenpointers: The Three Decker Diner has a certain vibe, very different from new restaurants popping up around the neighborhood. Will you keep the vibe and aesthetics of the diner the same? If not, what will you change?
Compton: Our biggest goal is to keep it Three Decker Diner. We don’t want to change everything. We were closed for the first two weeks of January for a quick face lift and some much needed kitchen renovations. But, everyone can relate to a diner. To try to change that experience would be silly and a misstep. People want that comfort of a diner.
From the start, one of our main goals was to make sure we kept the entire staff and regulars alike. Being a part of the neighborhood is important to us. It was important to get to know the regulars and gain their trust. You meet people who have lived in the neighborhood for 60 years. They were the ones we were most interested in and had the most fun talking to.
Greenpointers: Three Decker Diner’s menu is an extensive, yet typical, diner menu. Do you plan to keep the menu the same?
Compton: It’s definitely pretty large, but that’s part of the fun in it. Our goal is to take the menu and tweak it slightly to make the product better.
We recently switched the coffee to Variety, swapped margarine for butter, and frozen products to fresh. We buy fresh meat instead of frozen meat. We hope to swap pre-packaged pastries to fresh ones by spring. We want the customers to know we’re keeping prices as low as we can.
Greenpointers: Will there be any new additions to the menu?
Compton: Ed is from El Paso, so it made sense to us to swap out the Greek Specialties for a Tex-Mex section.
We got a full liquor license in order to facilitate brunch cocktails like Bloody Marys and Mimosas. But there is no mixology. We are keeping it approachable.
We also plan to build a small five-seat bar in the back dining room of the restaurant, so as to not take away from the front counter.
Greenpointers: Gavin, working at a 24-hour diner was the start of your journey to owning Three Decker. Can you see Three Decker eventually being open 24 hours?
Compton: Currently our hours are a little sporadic due to renovations and staffing. When we took over in July, the diner was closing at 5 pm. Our current hours are 7 am – 5 pm on Monday and Tuesday, and 7 am – 8 pm Wednesday through Sunday.
Ultimately, yes, the goal is to be open 24 hours to serve the early morning workers and late night revealers alike.