Nearly seven years ago, Lou and Grace Dakoglou moved from their house in North Jersey, seeking to open a restaurant in their new Atlantic Highlands community. With the help of their children, Anna and Zach, they transformed an old produce market, ensconced in a residential neighborhood on First Avenue, into — where it is forever 1950.
While Lou worked as chief cook, Grace became the interior decorator. A schoolteacher by day and an avid eBay shopper by night, she had long collected antique kitchenware and aprons. So when it was finally time to choose a restaurant theme, the decision seemed obvious.
Anna, who works as a server when she’s not attending class, said, “My mother always says that life gathers around the kitchen table. In Greek, ‘Zoe’ means life, so when it came time to naming the restaurant, we thought it seemed appropriate.”
Inside, strings of colorful, old-fashioned aprons, Andy Warhol posters and Mason jars line the cheery lime green walls, while antique spatulas and utensils dangle from the windowsill. Aged kitchenware grace various nooks of the comfortably sized L-shaped room, beckoning curious customers to take a closer peak at toasters and flour sifters of a bygone era.
Many of the displayed collectibles have interesting stories. One can find a milk carton from the The Andy Griffith Show and vegetable choppers from the set of Green Acres, Grace’s favorite childhood program.
In talking about the most prominent piece in the room, a Cavalier company Coke machine, Lou said, “We bought this in a store in Cape May and kept it in our kitchen for years. All the kids used to love it because it still works if you use nickels, dimes or quarters.”
In the warmer months, many customers choose to take their meals on the quaint, quiet patio garden. The menu ranges from classic breakfast dishes like buttermilk pancakes and omelets to gourmet lunches. A variety of wraps, sandwiches and salads are popular menu offerings.
Anna said of the clientele, “We get a lot of regulars during the week and even start to memorize orders. It’s fun when some of them really identify with the theme, saying things like ‘this really does look like my grandma’s kitchen!’ Others just really like the food, especially our breakfasts.”
One thing is for sure. If you’re hungry, in the mood for a festive ambiance, or just want to take a trip 50 years down memory lane, don’t Leave It to Beaver, leave it to Zoe’s.
Zoe’s Vintage Kitchen is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. and serves breakfast and lunch. They are located on 77 Center Avenue in the Atlantic Highlands. The phone number is (732) 708-9637. To get there, drive down First Avenue (which intersects Route 36 at the stoplight near Foodtown), and make a left turn at the Memphis Pig-Out restaurant onto Center Avenue. Zoe’s is on the left, three blocks down.