A Snapshot of Capital City Diner’s History, Circa 1990s
The Avoca Family Diner, circa 1993
Y&H received an e-mail earlier this week from Randy Garbin, publisher of Roadside magazine and its electronic version Roadside Online. Garbin's magazine is a love letter to diners and their role in American grease-tronomy.
Garbin sent me a PDF version of a piece he wrote in 1993 about the Avoca Family Diner, which was the name of the 1940s-era structure that Matt Ashburn and Patrick Carl moved to Trinidad last year and rechristened the Capital City Diner. The D.C. owners didn't purchase the diner from the woman mentioned in Garbin's story but from a later proprietor, Pat McMahon, who sold it to Ashburn and Carl despite the fact the duo didn't have all their financing immediately lined up. McMahon must have sensed their passion for the project.
The Avoca Family Diner is a Silk City, built in the late 40s or early 50s in Paterson, NJ, and it is run by Brenda Remchuk, a warm-hearted, sultry-voiced woman with an honest love of cooking and people. Brenda’s been running this diner-in-the-middle-of-nowhere for better than a year. Before this, she worked at Corning Glass for several years. She considers the diner to be a good career move.
The diner’s reputation required some rehabilitation, but she’s done quite well with it. It could have something to do with the plate-sized flluffy pancakes, the big juicy burgers, the cheese bread (ask for it by name!), the grilled apple bread, the English muffiin bread, the Friday night fiish-fry, homemade pies and cobblers, or the thick and hearty chicken soup (it cured my cold)—or maybe it was just Brenda’s easygoing, make-yourself-at-home manner.
The diner sports that classic Silk City diamond tile pattern in a light turquoise and black, and you’ll fiind Brenda right behind the counter at the grill. Probably one of Brenda’s best items is the fresh-baked biscuits, served with dinner, or with sausage gravy, a hearty breakfast found throughout this region (and rarely in New England). The diner also provides a prelude to Avoca’s other attraction, a caboose dining room. A railfan’s delight, there are photos of trains and locomotives hanging on the walls, and the caboose adds another 20 seats or so.
I think one of my favorite things about the Avoca Diner is simply its location. It is rare, these days, to be driving a remote stretch of highway and suddenly see, where there is little else, an excellently preserved, real classic diner. A diner in such a setting seems to both stand out and fiit in at the same time. Despite its classically industrial design, the rural landscape seems to wholeheartedly embrace this man-made touchstone into its geography. Brenda’s personality and cooking do this diner justice, and looking across the road, the thought of being able to actually spend the night within walking distance brought out the child in me.
Photo courtesy of Randy Garbin and Roadside magazine