Renie Groumousas knew she was back in the swing of things at the new Townhouse Family Restaurant when she called to her staff, “Can I get some pea in a monkey?”
Explaining that “pea in a monkey” means a sample of pea soup in a small saucer, Renie said of her first day back in business, “It’s like riding a bicycle; it just came back automatically.
The Townhouse re-opened yesterday at 18 N. Main St. just more than one year after closing its doors at the former location at 91 N. Main St., in the plaza.
The Townhouse was first opened on March 5, 1990 by Renie, her husband Jimmy Groumousas, sister- and brother–in-law Denise and Andreas Grotsis and sister- and brother-in-law Bill and Julie Groumous. After years of friendly service, the diner owners found out their lease would not be renewed, and within just days of being notified, they had to vacate their business on March 21 of last year.
The family, about six of them sitting around their new diner counter on stools, said the closing was “devastating.”
“Everybody cried,” commented Julie as the group agreed with the sentiment. The loss for some of their customers was so strong that Denise and Renie shared they received phone calls at their homes from customers asking when the new place would re-open. The family even said, as testament to how loved they were and are, one longtime customer, who was put into a convalescent home, called the diner asking his friends to break him out– of course they could not oblige this request.
Last night as dinner hour neared, droves of people piled into the new 3,600-square-foot restaurant. The owners doled out hugs while the head chef, Andreas, dished out plates of food.
Local community volunteer Susan Barnes was dining with family and said on her way out of the restaurant that she thrilled with the re-opening. “Praise the Lord,” she exclaimed.
Since the spot has closed, locals and nearby residents have longed for the family energy that the Townhouse offers. Patrons for more than one dozen years, Mike and Elise Mineo were thrilled to be back in the booth. “Since they closed,” Mike said, “we tried every diner from East Haven all the way out to Old Saybrook and they couldn’t come close to this diner.” Elise chimed in, “Plus they make the best clam strips and they are a wonderful family.”
Branford resident Lisa Rosenthal was back at the diner for her second visit of the day, last night. She mentioned she and her husband had come for lunch and left a new menu for the restaurant in the car. When she picked up her daughter, Hannah Rosenthal from school, she found the menu and insisted that her mom take her back for dinner. Hannah has been a Townhouse patron since birth and says now, at age 11, that the chicken soup is her favorite meal there and if she had the choice, she would come to the Townhouse for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday.
Sally Ann Attianese of , ordered fried clams last night and stated the seafood at the diner was her favorite. Among many guests, the seafood ranks tops and is an important carryover from the original spot.
Of the new menu, which includes some more healthy items like yogurt parfaits, wraps and salads, the family said it’s mostly the same as what was offered before. As for prices, you’ll see a small increase based on inflation rates according to the owners.
The new space offers plenty of booths– a favorite among guests– and there is bench seating to accommodate large groups. A small diner counter with stools is open for the nostalgic customers but the overall feel of the place is modern and clean. Deciding exactly what to use in the new space from flatware to ceiling tiles, the family said it was a democratic decision. With more than 10 people chiming in, it's a miracle the place opened in one year!
On any give day or night you can expect to find up to one dozen family members from several generations buzzing about the Townhouse, seating patrons, cooking and delivering food. Truly a family affair, Renie’s son Nontas Groumousas put it best: “Our family just expanded with the customers.”