Historic diner opens in Oakley
July 4, 2008
Long waits marked the much anticipated opening of the Road Island Diner in Oakley.
"It’s not fast food," diner owner Keith Walker said. "The younger generation wants it fast and they don’t understand that’s not what this is. If you want it fast go to McDonald’s."
The crowds were so large the diner ran out of food last weekend, he explained.
"They were supposed to be a couple of soft openings," Walker said about Saturday and Sunday. "We didn’t take into account the publicity we got. So we were inundated with people who, of course, wanted to eat and wanted to see the diner."
Walker’s diner was built on the East Coast in the 1930s.
"Diners never really made it past the East Coast because they were too hard to transfer," he said, adding that his diner was exhibited at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. "This diner was built during the Depression when there was no money. It also went through World War II when it sat next to a naval base. A lot of people who went to war and didn’t return sat in this diner and smoked."
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Cigarette smoke stained the ceiling, which Walker replaced.
"A lady came up last year from Salt Lake. She said, ‘I was a waitress in this diner in 1953 for two years,’" Walker said.
The diner is open Wednesdays through Sundays at the corner of State Road 32 and Weber Canyon Road.
"A lot time people give you one chance to get it right," Walker said about the snafus last weekend at the restaurant. "But more than a restaurant, this is a destination attraction. The food is important, but in some respects it’s secondary."
Popular menu items include meatloaf sandwiches, turkey dinners, potatoes and gravy, apricot-glazed pork chops and fried macaroni and cheese. Entrees range in price from $8-$14.
"A true, authentic diner was built in a diner factory, as a diner," Walker said. "The diner that I have was run by a Greek family for four generations."
Soda jerks with paper hats and bowties make malts, shakes and banana splits at a fountain from the 1940s.
"Back in the day they didn’t have ponytails and pierced ears," Walker said.
He says he invested more than $1 million opening the diner, which seats about 75 people.
"It’ll be a real long time before I get my money back," Walker said. "But put a quarter in the jukebox, it plays the song you want and you think you are in pig heaven."