A devastating storm in 2012 turned a New Yorker’s bucket-list wish into an extended North Texas stay and inspired the facelift of a Plano diner.
Gabriel and Nina Vangelatos, the married New York City natives behind Mama Jenny’s Family Diner on Parker Road, visited the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 2012. They were dating at the time, and Nina, a Dallas Cowboys fan, wanted to watch her team play at home against the New York Giants. But their return flight to New York did not take off as planned; Hurricane Sandy was wreaking havoc on their home state and the northeastern U.S.
While staying at a North Texas hotel until the storm subsided, Gabriel and Nina were taken aback by the support they received from the locals. That support, Nina said, and favorable business conditions in North Texas prompted the couple to buy a Plano diner and choose North Texas as their new home.
“We got married, moved out of state and bought a business all at the same time,” Nina said, laughing. “And we’re still going strong. We still like each other.”
Mama Jenny’s, named after Gabriel’s mother, specializes in breakfast items, sandwiches and desserts. Gabriel had worked in the restaurant business in New York where his father owned a 24-hour diner.
One of the restaurant’s signature meals, the Ultimate Hungry Man, comes with French toast, a pancake, one-half of a Belgian waffle and an assortment of breakfast meats and eggs. Despite the imposing portions, some regulars have been known to eat the entire plate in one sitting, Gabriel said.
The couple’s New York roots have influenced the menu, from the variety of breakfast sandwiches available to the restaurant’s signature cheesecake.
The restaurant has remained open for business as it undergoes interior remodeling to replace the flooring in the dining area and to add a cheesecake and dessert bar to the left of the main entryway.
Some of their regular customers have offered to help with the interior upgrades, Nina said.
“We fell in love with people here,” she said.