In April of 1994, brothers Nick Tsironis and Edward “Eddie” Lehnen took over Hilton Head Diner from the previous owners. “Someone else came down to open it here. We came down to help them and we started working here at that time. We bought it ten years later,” says Lehnen. “We had never been to Hilton Head Island before – we’d never even heard of it.” A quarter of a century later, the proprietor brothers are celebrating their diner’s silver anniversary, crediting much of their success to their staff. “We’ve been pretty lucky. About 85% of our staff has been here for ten to fifteen years.
We get local regulars and we get tourist regulars – we get a little bit of everybody. We get athletes and celebrities. I’m not really big on that but my staff will point them out to me – and we don’t want to bother them, either.” Eddie and Nick’s parents were in the restaurant business and the brothers worked in diners at an early age. “When I was in New York, I was running one of the biggest diners there – Thru-Way Diner outside of New Rochelle,” says Lehnen but adds, “Cooking school is fine, but I learned on the job. I was already working in the business but school taught me more of the science side to it.”
In the tradition of diner favorites, the best sellers are the Certified Angus Beef burgers and steaks. All the meats are cooked on the premises like their classic Yankee roast beef. “We don’t buy anything pre-prepared. Nick and I make our desserts in house. All the desserts sell but the eclairs and the ‘Death by Chocolate Cake’ are the best sellers,” says Lehnen. Customers also buy whole cakes including their signature cheesecakes which come in original NY, strawberry, fudge brownie, and Oreo. Pies, baklava, Napoleon, turnovers, Danish, pastries and other sweet delicacies fill the shelves in the glass case like contestants in a beauty contest.
“It’s like second nature. I’ve been doing this since I’m ten years old,” says Lehnen, who is heading back to the kitchen, seeing a large entourage coming through the door.