Diner Chic

August 06, 1993

The "in" thing in the restaurant business these days is to open a diner, be it an old-fashioned one or a nouveau diner that has the look and feel of the good-old days but offers the cuisine of the idiosyncratic 1990s. This region soon will have two more diner additions. The well-known Double T on Baltimore National Pike is opening a second diner in Pasadena later this summer and Frank's Diner will be serving home-cooked food in Jessup early next year.

Nostalgia buffs will love Frank's, especially if they fondly remember the days of diner-dining of the 1950s -- or wish to learn what it was like. This 65-by-16-foot diner is the real McCoy: straight from New Jersey.

For more than a decade, the vacant Olympia Diner sat forlornly along the Baltimore-Atlantic City route just to the east of the Delaware Memorial Bridge. It never lost its bright, shiny exterior look; the interior remained in tip-top shape, too. But it never re-opened, even as traffic on U.S. 40 at Carney's Point, N.J., grew along with the popularity of the Atlantic City casinos.

When chef Franklin Davis of Severn went hunting for a usable diner, the Olympia was the perfect choice. It will be moved to Jessup (U.S. 1 and Cedar Avenue) later this year, with an opening planned for early 1994. There will also be a new section added on, bringing the total seating to 128. Mr. Davis, now the night baker at Kimbrough Army Community Hospital at Fort Meade with a lifetime of credentials in the food-service business, will man the kitchen.

Diner cuisine is the rage. Wherever you go, nouveau diners are popping up. Look at Ralphie's in Timonium and the Silver Diner in Towson Town Center and Laurel. Traditional diners are thriving, too, such as the Bel-Loc at Loch Raven Boulevard and Joppa Road, Tony's in Essex, Augie's in Brooklyn and the Andros on Belair Road. Americans are eager for the kind of simple, basic meals that they used to devour in their youth -- and the low prices of such blue-plate specials. They also are in love with remembrance of the good old days. Diners have that in abundance.

Will Frank's Diner succeed at its Jessup site? We hope so. It has a good location, near industrial businesses and not far from population centers in Howard and Anne Arundel counties.

But the restaurant business is tough to break into. Opening up a vintage diner may give Mr. Davis a leg up on the competition.

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