Many believe that diners are as much a piece of American tradition as baseball and hot dogs. These roadside restaurants once dotted the landscape across the U.S. While few remain today, one of the most famous is still thriving in Rockford, in the midwestern state of Michigan. Rosie's Diner became famous years ago when it was featured in a series of TV commercials. Since then it has seen good times and bad and even moved, but its owner's are determined to return the restaurant to its original glory. For Producer Liu Enming, VOA's Elaine Lu has the story.
Randy and Jonelle Roest share a fascination with the culture of classic Americana. They have also always wanted to own their own restaurant. In January 2006 their dream came true with the purchase of Rosie's Diner.
"Rosie's Diner is probably one of the most famous diners in the world,” says Randy. “What made it so famous is in the 1970s an actress named Nancy Walker. She was the main character in a commercial series made for Bounty paper towels. And her name was Rosie and that was all filmed in this diner."
Rosie's Diner opened in 1946 as the Silver Dollar Diner in the eastern state of New Jersey, becoming a fixture on the east coast. It rose to national attention when the Bounty ads were shot there, prompting the owner to change the name to Rosie's Diner. In 1991, a new owner moved the famous restaurant to its current home in Michigan. When the Roests bought the diner 15 years later it needed some work.
"Our number one goal was to bring Rosie's back to the way it was in its glory days. It had been run down. The food was sub par," admitted Randy.
In addition to renovating the diner, the Roests set out to recapture the diner's original flavor with an improved menu. Kristopher Ramsey is one of Rosie's cooks.
"We make our own style of chili,” he says. “We make our own style of burritos. We have a soup called cheeseburger soup. We made that from scratch and everything. Some of them we get on the Internet and get recipes for."
Jonelle Roest even added a secret family recipe to the menu. “The one thing that I've brought in that's really popular is -- my grandmother used to make an old beef egg noodle recipe. It's slow roasted beef. It's got gravy with it, and noodles. It's kind of old comfort food I grew up on."
Dressed in pink, Rosie's waitresses whirl among the tables serving customers. Among them is Ashley Grutter. "We have got a lot of tourists. People come in from out of state, coming just because they have seen the diner on TV like in the ‘70s, and things like that,” says Ashley. “Old people come in here to relive their childhood and young people come in to experience what the older generation was able to experience back in the ‘60s and ‘70s."