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COLUMN: Killino’s Riverside Diner does it right

Cara Dolan Berry
Staff writer
Posted 9/4/22

In keeping with the “upstate” summer tradition of lining up to indulge in ice cream treats scooped up by local drive-ins, consider a classic diner that does the “drive-in” thing out back.

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COLUMN: Killino’s Riverside Diner does it right

We’ve got a pretty good family here, customers and all.
– Mike Killino, proprietor

MARCY — In keeping with the “upstate” summer tradition of lining up to indulge in ice cream treats scooped up by local drive-ins, consider a classic diner that does the “drive-in” thing out back, serving a full menu of soft-serve and hard, hand-dipped Perry’s ice cream from April till whenever that chill chokes the early autumn air. Discover an eclectic yet understated diner vibe through the front door, with breakfast sausage sizzling, hot lunch specials luring, and a house-filling Friday Fish Fry supper. Killino’s Riverside Diner in Marcy is family owned and locally loved. 

Proprietor Mike Killino started out as a kid working in his uncle’s local eateries, Trackside Tavern in Rome, and Bella Cucina’s Italian bistro in New Hartford. He bought his diner when he was only 23 years old. Now married with kids, for almost 16 years, he’s hosted a gathering of friends and neighbors every day, greeting them almost all by name.

“80% of the people here are regulars,” said Killino as he looks around the room and nods, “Joe, Phil, Dan … Pete down there. …”

Said Killino, “We’ve got a pretty good family here, customers and all.”

The humble digs on the corner of Maynard and River Road debuted as Flanigan’s Dairy over a century ago. As Killino groped for prior names, Phil - a “regular” cozied up to the lunch counter - looked up from his long hots to fill in the blanks.

“Charlie’s for seven years,” said Phil, “and Joe and Mary’s Diner before that. Then Flanigans.”

“THE spot,” says one Yelper of the River Road must-stop. Another called it “a little gem.” The interior surprises, where the curb appeal misleads. Killino credits his wife and sister with the recent reno, which left nothing of his sports memorabilia motif except the breakfast specials; “Pinch Hit” to “Batter Up.” It’s clean and classic. A blackboard wall boasting daily specials and “Welcome to Killino’s Riverside Diner” scratched in colored chalk crowns a subway tile scheme. A tin roof tracks stainless steel trim and big-bottom stools topped with red vinyl seats line the customary lunch counter.

The grill on the other side of that counter renders breakfast live art, where Killino turns the eggs over easy for all to see.  

I’m a “front-of-the-house” person,” said Killino. 

The front is a “diner,” but the back is a “drive-in.” Tall trees shade a peaceful grove of picnic tables that lead to walk-up windows with ice cream menus.

The food is the fete at Killino’s Riverside Diner, rivaled only by the service, consistently celebrated as prompt, friendly, and attentive.

The menu has all the “it’s a Utica thing” dishes that make a Mohawk Valley local feel at home. Daily specials include goulash, chicken & biscuits, mushroom stew, and - of course - Friday Fish Fry, including surf-and-turf. The gimbrotta skillet is special every day. And greens can go with all the grub - get ‘em on the side. House specialties include the “Tucci” - one egg scrambled with ham, peppers, and cheese on an English muffin - and the “What” - two eggs any style served over hash browns, topped with bacon, sausage, and cheese, toast on the side. Get one egg cooked to order with toast for less than $3 and add long hots to any dish for a dollar.

Daily hot lunch specials depart from a classic lunch list: salads, sandwiches, including the locally beloved Reuben, wraps, apps, burgers, baskets (from shrimp to clams to mozz sticks), Hofmann hot dogs, and a steak dinner for $16.95. Daily dessert specials compete with Perry’s Ice Cream to serve sweet endings to scrumptious meals.

My hash browns came pan-fried, with peppers and onions. Just like my father used to make them, I shared.

Said Killino with a smile, “we do it right, here.”

“They treat us really well here,” said Krista, a long-time waitress at Killino’s, as she gazed out at a room full of folks finishing a What or a Tucci or a good conversation.  

“It’s a special little place.”




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