Start your day at Manayunk’s best kept secret.
By Megan Douress
Photography by JPG Photography (jpgphotography.com)
You know what they say – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you ask Greg Gillin, it’s also the best meal of the day.
Although it’s tucked under the Manayunk Bridge, Greg’s Kitchen has given off some seriously delicious aromas that have drawn customers in for breakfast and lunch since December 2013. Greg always dreamed of having his own sit-down spot since he was young, all thanks to some inspiration from his family roots.
“I have the fortune of being Italian,” Greg said. “My mom’s a great cook and her mom before that was a great cook. Every meal was an event. They showed me the ropes of how to cook, which made me comfortable in the kitchen. I have to give them credit.”
With the exception of the hands-on experiences at family dinners, Greg has no formal cooking training. His career in the kitchen started with one of his first jobs where he made sandwiches at a Jewish deli. When it came to leaving the nest, he was faced with two options – getting a degree in hotel/restaurant management at Drexel University or getting a degree in communications at Temple University.
“I was never the best student so Drexel was like, ‘Maybe come back next year,’ and Temple was like, ‘We’ll take you!’” Greg joked. “When I went to school for communications, I thought, ‘Well, I’m going to do this and I’m going to get the piece of paper and then eventually I’ll open my own place.’ I knew I was going to do food or something around people. I knew I didn’t want a desk job.”
Greg’s career took him through many roles in the food industry, everything from working the line to managing a restaurant in Delaware County. His experience – along with the help of a friend who was also in the industry – led him to owning his own place at 4460 Main Street.
“I would have loved to have a ‘Manayunk was calling my name’ moment,” Greg said. “My buddy was driving down Main Street and called me and said, ‘There’s this little spot. Maybe you should give that a try.’ I had told him that I always wanted to do this.”
Greg decided breakfast was going to be his thing, not because there weren’t plenty of great places to get breakfast in Manayunk, but because he wanted to be a part of how people start their day. He likes how breakfast can be as simple as pancakes and bacon and as creative as the Smokey Sammy.
“Everyone likes The Smokey Sammy, which is actually named after Kosta’s place (SMoKE Cigar Lounge and Hookah Bar),” Greg said. “One day, he was like, ‘Make me a breakfast sandwich,’ so I made him a breakfast sandwich and he was like, ‘This is good!’ so we put it on the specials menu and now it’s a main featured menu item.”
This customer favorite consists of two fried eggs with a sausage patty, mozzarella cheese, and Sriracha sauce on a brioche bun with a side of tater tots. While Greg loves creating new concoctions to keep his specials menu fresh and exciting each week, his goal has always been to make the breakfast his customers have been eating their entire lives – and to make it well.
“It’s funny because people are always asking what kind of breakfast I serve and my response is always, ‘The things you ate as a kid or the things you want when you’re not in the mood for the fancy things,’” Greg said. “Our breakfast sandwiches are just good ingredients – they’re done right and they’re something you can count on.”
In return, Greg can always count on his customers, who he credits for the success of Greg’s Kitchen. Back in 2013, he was trying to create a sustainable business and rather than spend money on advertising, he counted on word of mouth to get customers in the door.
“We have these mugs that say, ‘I’m a gregular’ on them,” he laughed. “Just in this small space, customers have had their children’s christenings here and they have family parties here despite the size. It’s cool getting to know people in the neighborhood.”
He’s also had a great support system within the Manayunk business community.
“We all work in conjunction,” Greg said. “When we’re busy, I send people to Winnie’s or Lucky’s. When other places are busy, their customers come down here. I’ve always had the mentality of ‘your place makes my place better.’ All of these places feed off of each other – we all know each other and we support each other.”
“You never build anything by yourself and I’ll never be able to take all the credit,” Greg continued. “Family, friends, great employees, and the community – you don’t get anywhere without them.”
Regular diners of Greg’s Kitchen know that any day can bring a long wait time for breakfast by Greg and his friendly staff. The good news is, the tiny breakfast spot is in the midst of an expansion. Greg recently signed a lease for the storefront next door, which he’s currently using for storage and a food prep area. With a little more time, Greg is hoping to bring in bigger equipment to that space, which will ultimately mean more space for food prep and a little more wiggle room for his dining room.
The extra space is long overdue for the small business that grew at a rapid pace. With it, Greg is slowly but surely learning to enjoy the experience of owning his own restaurant in Manayunk.
“I was listening to a podcast with Ben and Jerry and they were like, ‘Opening a business and dealing with the hectic pace of it is kind of like falling down a hill. You don’t really get to experience falling down the hill,’” Greg recalled. “It’s like when people ask me, ‘How are you enjoying having your own restaurant?’ It’s hard to appreciate it while you’re in the moment.”
When asked about what the future holds for Greg’s Kitchen, Greg briefly mentioned things like “bigger location” or “second location,” but was wise to not get too far ahead of himself.
“For a minute and a half, I’m going to sit back and enjoy what I’ve done,” Greg said.