John Spyropoulos takes an order from a customer at John’s Cafe. Photography by Emil Lippe.

John’s Cafe is one of those unassuming neighborhood diners that loyal customers have kept in business for decades.

It’s just a short walk from Greenville Avenue’s trendiest spots, where patrons are shelling out $15 for a cosmopolitan or hundreds for a 12-course tasting menu, but it couldn’t be more different. 

Housed next to a Thai restaurant in a strip center, John’s Cafe is now in its third location since John Spyropoulos established it 50 years ago. Walking inside the place — which looks much like it did when it originally opened — is like stepping back in time, with old newspaper and magazine articles and photographs documenting five decades of the diner’s history. That’s not to mention the retro booths, tables and readerboard menu hanging above the counter. 

John Spyropoulos. Photography by Emil Lippe.

Spyropoulos moved from Greece to the United States when he was 21 years old. He came to Dallas, where he had relatives, and started working for local restaurants such as Vincent’s Seafood. In 1972, he opened John’s Cafe at 2724 Greenville Ave. The business lasted there for more than 30 years, until Spyropoulos lost the lease. A bank was coming, and John’s had to go. 

“The big fish, they eat the little fish, you know,” he says. “That’s what happened.” 

Spyropoulos moved the restaurant to a spot at Plano Road and Miller Road. The majority of the customers who frequented the Lower Greenville location came on weekends, and lunchtime was busy, but the breakfast crowd just wasn’t there. 

After a year and a half, Spyropoulos got a call from the landlord of a restaurant called Nick’s Cafe, located at 1733 Greenville Ave. The tenant was going to vacate the space soon, and the landlord asked Spyropoulos if he wanted it. 

“I started smiling,” he says. “I said, ‘Yes, I’d like to come down.’”

After six months of renovations, John’s Cafe opened in June 2007 in its current location. On the first day, there was a line of customers waiting to get in, from 6:30 a.m. to closing time at 3 p.m.

Neighbors still pour into the diner for breakfast and lunch favorites. Omelets are top sellers, along with pancakes, which kids can get shaped in a golden brown likeness of Mickey Mouse.

Franco Mario cooks food for customers at John’s Cafe. Photography by Emil Lippe.

After 50 years in business, John’s has become a staple spot for neighbors. Some have been coming for decades, once as children and now bringing their own kids with them. Others come in twice daily, for breakfast and lunch. 

Spyropoulos is a fixture at the restaurant, too, along with his wife and daughter. They let him have a few days off now and then, he says, but he’s usually at the restaurant at 5 a.m., hours before the door opens.

The diner has six employees, including one who’s been working there 32 years.  

“Good food, service. People love it,” Spyropoulos says. “This place is a family place. That’s why the people love it.” 

Comments from neighbors

Victoria Vanderwoude: For many years I drove past this gem and heard the stories of happy customers. Finally we decided to try it. I wish I had sooner. The biscuits melt in your mouth, you don’t need jelly or butter; the pancakes are perfection, and maybe if you are lucky, your partner will allow a bite or two or more. The large breakfast plate fills you up and puts a smile on your face. The quality service with a smile is consistent every time. Simple menu, yet no frills for a great breakfast joint which is why people keep coming back. It’s a space that we now go to one to two times a month for breakfast. I can’t wait to work my way through the lunch menu. East Dallas used to be filled with many “family owned” restaurants and slowly that is going away block by block. It’s still nice to grab a bite from a local place that you can take your family without breaking the bank.

Kevin Hunt: That open-faced roast beast sammich … Ahhhhh GIT IN MY BELLY! 

Bob Cheek: Breakfast & patty melts are the best 

Ursula Fuentes: Love John’s! Used to go every Saturday when it was on the corner of Greenville and Vickery. We used to walk down the block from my grandma’s house to get breakfast every Saturday. 

Beth Bridges: A co-worker took our lunch group to John’s after we left a restaurant down the street that is no longer in business. I was so surprised at the food! Delicious! Their burgers are the best! Their daily specials are worth trying! Love this place!

John’s Cafe, 1733 Greenville Ave., 214.874.0800, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday

John Spyropoulos sits at a booth at John’s Cafe. Photography by Emil Lippe.