It’s back: Customers react to the return of iconic Kostas to the Hamilton dining scene

A popular, longtime restaurant reappeared on Hamilton’s dining scene Tuesday after an absence of more than a year.

Kostas, 221 Court St., is back in business with a new kitchen and renovated dining room, courtesy of Yun-Hui Bui, who purchased it from Young-Hee Kim in January.

Customers said they were happy to see the restaurant reopen.

“I’m really glad to have it back,” said attorney John Holcomb following a breakfast of pancakes and sausage. “With all of the new activity downtown, you don’t want to lose the best of the old places and for awhile I feared that I wasn’t going to see Kostas again and I am thrilled that they’re back open.”

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The revamped diner, which debuted in 1950, sports new flooring, tables, booths and a fresh coat of paint, which customers say makes the place look larger. Instead of generic landscape art, Kostas’ walls are now decorated with images of Hamilton’s landmarks, as well as previous owners and employees.

“The new photographs of old Hamilton have added some historical flavor that’s appropriate to the decor,” Holcomb said.

Affixed to a wall just inside Kostas’ entrance is a poster of Cate Blanchett/Mara Rooney movie “Carol,” which shot parts inside and outside the restaurant in April 2014. Next to it are black-and-white photographs of film crews outside the restaurant and Journal-News articles about the film, which received six Academy Award nominations.

Kim, who ran Kostas for 26 years, is helping transition the business by teaching Bui all of its recipes, including her breakfast gravy. She’s also assisting with some of the initial cooking.

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A majority of the restaurant’s employees have returned, including waitress Wilma Gadd and cook Wes Haggard. Others may follow.

“I was so happy to see that,” said longtime customer Gerri Kline, who ordered biscuits and gravy with scrambled eggs underneath. “Every time I’ve seen Ms. Kim I’ve been begging her to open it up because I just love her, and I love her gravy, so I’m glad they’re back.”

Gerri Kline’s husband, Roger, said he wishes Kim could have returned as owner, but is glad she is helping Bui learn the ropes.

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Gadd said she had been working for the diner for 43 years before it closed in September 2018, working for every owner except its founder.

“I think people need a little country diner with home-cooked food where you know people by their first name,” she said. “I think it’s good for Hamilton.”

Being back after more than 13 months away had her a little nervous, but seeing so many familiar faces was “wonderful,” she said.

“I’ve missed my customers. Some of them, I know their children, I know their grandchildren. It’s really been fun seeing everybody again,” she said.

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