Jessup's Own Diner HOWARD COUNTY

August 06, 1993

Feel like some meatloaf or chicken and ribs with a special barbecue sauce? Or a burger and fries? A tall ice cream soda and maybe a slice of homemade pie?

Pretty soon you won't have to trek to Catonsville or Timonium for such adventures in old-fashioned American cuisine. You'll be able to visit Frank's Diner at U.S. 1 in Jessup.

Nostalgia buffs will love it, especially if they fondly remember the heydays of diner-dining in the 1950s -- or wish to learn what they were 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, bringing the total seating to 128. Mr. Davis, now the night baker at Kimbrough Army Community Hospital at Fort George G. Meade, 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 Laurel and Towson. Traditional diners are thriving, too, such as the Double T on Baltimore National Pike (expanding soon to a second location in Pasadena) and the China Diner in Laurel. Americans, especially in the Central Maryland region, appear 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 offer 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 Howard's population centers.

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

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