The 814: Gem City Dinor

Libby Bullinger, Copy editor

If you are looking for a cozy spot to grab breakfast within the heart of the Erie community, look no further than Gem City Dinor. The restaurant is located at 3545 W. 12th Street, only about a 15-minute drive from the Mercyhurst campus, and is open Tuesday- Sunday from 7a.m. to 3p.m.

When I went to the diner on Sunday morning, it was the first time I had ever visited. Although I had driven past many times, I never noticed the restaurant tucked away in a lot off of 12th Street along with a music shop and realty office.

At first glance, there is room for outdoor seating in the warmer months, but since my visit was in November the outside option was not available. Walking into Gem City Dinor was nothing short of overwhelming. The place was buzzing with customers and employees alike, everyone engaging in lively conversation with one another and across the large dining room.

While waiting to be seated, I observed my surroundings. The diner is quite unique in it’s design with bright yellow walls offset by an earthy green, industrial style ceiling. The walls are lined with comfy booths, each with their own individually designed cloth coverings. Perhaps the most unique aspect of the diner is the variety of different décor that is placed in every nook and cranny. Stained glass artwork pieces are hung on the walls alongside beautiful photographs of the Lake Erie Bayfront and Presque Isle park.

There were all different kinds of artwork including images of coffee, ships and young children hugging and laughing. Different figurines are scattered around the restaurant giving patrons lots to look at while they wait for a meal. I was seated at the large u-shaped bar and was immediately provided with a menu and a list of specials.

According to the Gem City Dinor Facebook page, the restaurant has a unique list of specials that changes for each weekend brunch. For Nov. 6 and 7 some of the specials were grilled Hawaiian bread pudding, eggs benedict and a huevos rancheros with burnt salsa and smoked jalapeño cream. After looking over the menu, I decided to go with a Gem City Dinor classic, the #5 breakfast bundle that includes eggs, a meat of choice, toast and the signature “smashbrowns,” which is essentially a baked potato smashed and served with a choice of condiments. The food was all steaming hot when it arrived and was a wonderful way to begin my Sunday.

While at my seat I noticed a framed dollar bill with the date March 11, 2019. After asking my waitress about the significance, she explained that was Gem City Dinor’s opening date and the framed bill was the first dollar they ever made. Being a fairly new restaurant in town, I was overwhelmed by the number of regulars that were coming in. Nearly every party that entered while I was eating was greeted by name and quickly pointed to their preferred table. My waitress noted that although the restaurant was just a year old when the pandemic hit, they were fueled by their wonderful customer based that continued to support them by ordering takeout through the months of lockdown.

If you are looking for a tasty meal for breakfast, lunch or brunch off campus, check out Gem City Dinor for an experience you won’t soon forget. If you are lucky, maybe you’ll get a table with uniquely shaped salt and pepper shakers such as roosters, bears, pigs and more. Novelties and delicious food are both in great supply at Gem City Dinor.