For many people, the South Transit Family Diner was one of those places they’ve driven by a million times on the way to somewhere else, like the nearby New York Beer Project or The Transit Drive-In. But for others, the diner was a cherished regular stop, and one that felt the cruel, cold blow of the Grim Reaper’s scythe last June, as the financial impacts of COVID-19 were just coming to bear.
Owners of a nearby auto shop, Don and Victoria Davis were two people who did make regular stops at the diner and their dream of opening a barbecue restaurant meshed neatly with an opportunity to bring the beloved diner back from the grave — albeit in a slightly new form.
About 8 years ago, Don Davis got a smoker and started developing his own style, what his wife Victoria describes as Southern and Texas-influenced. After years of catering parties for friends and family, the couple decided to roll the dice on the former diner and reopen it as a barbecue spot – South Transit BBQ & Grill.
“We hemmed and hawed about it for a little bit. It was like: should we, shouldn’t we?” Victoria Davis told us. “So, we went back and forth. It just ended up working out and it couldn’t have worked out any better, including all the little details.
“The big thing for us was keeping it similar to what was already here,” she stressed.
With the diner having been in operation for around 30 years, Davis said updating the modest one-story building meant clearing out decades of stuff. The new restaurant features a rustic, country feel that perfectly suits the Davis’ barbecue concept.
“We love the woodwork,” Victoria told us. “It’s gorgeous and it goes with our concept, but it was dirty when we got here. It was 30 years of worth stuff that we had to clean up in the past few months. It looks great now, but it was rough at the beginning.”
On their breakfast menu, the South Transit BBQ & Grill splits the difference between barbecue roadhouse and family diner. While it has all of your essential diner classics — omelettes, pancakes, waffles and French toast — barbecue also makes an appearance in the form of pulled pork hash ($8.99) and a burnt ends scramble ($8.69).
The dinner menu is much closer to classic barbecue fare: pulled pork, brisket and smashburgers. However, there are a few nods to Western New York. You probably won’t find many smoked pizza rolls ($6.99) or fried bologna sandwiches ($9.95) deep in Texas barbecue country. Kids’ and gluten-free options are also available.
Soft drinks are the only beverage option right now, but we were told there are plans to offer beer and wine in the near future. Online ordering and workplace catering are also available.
Currently featuring socially-distanced indoor and outdoor seating, the new restaurant is set up for COVID-era dining. The restaurant also recently partnered with local party company Enchanted Birthdays to offer monthly themed lunches that feature appearances by a rotating cast of Disney characters. Parties will be reservation-only and all COVID safety protocols will be followed, we were told.
“It’s just something different that you can get out of the house and do with your kids,” Davis told us. “Right now, we’re planning for once a month and we’ll see how it goes.”
Themed kids parties are just one part of bringing a family-friendly atmosphere back to this Lockport location. The new barbecue restaurant is also mostly staffed by the Davis’ extended family. Victoria Davis said it’s all part of carrying on a tradition, something we should all be doing and appreciating right now.
“People have been coming in here and saying they were coming in here for many years and sad to see it closed,” she said. “So we’re really excited about bringing it back. I think it’s going to be a hit!”
6703 S Transit Rd., Lockport
Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 7 a.m. – 2 p.m., Friday and Saturday 7 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sunday 7 a.m. – 11 a.m., Wednesday CLOSED
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