Feeling like a Steak?

......Then you might want to try this Diner I reviewed for the paper last year. Or, if you're like me, you'll just stay home and cook your own!

(FYI...I BBQ a mean steak....finished with a slice of flavored compound butter on top and served with Gorgonzola Cheese and Caramelized Onions....mmmm.   That's my idea of BEEF for dinner.)

Anyway, this Diner was well....interesting. I did appreciate the old and funky decor, as well as the dessert.  She has a huge loyal following and people think she makes great food. If you're a local, let me know if you check it out!


Kitty Pappas, standing behind the counter in her Vintage Diner.

         Sliding onto a swivel stool at the front counter of Kitty Pappas Steak House feels a little like stepping back into time at a 40's Diner. That effect has not come by accident, but rather by a determined effort to keep things the same despite constant changes in the area surrounding the long-lived eating establishment. You see, at Kitty Pappas, nothing much has changed in 65 years, and they plan to keep it that way. 
Kitty Pappas is well known for it's steaks and burgers, though the 2-sided vintage typography menu boasts a fairly large variety of food items. That may not seem extraordinary in a chain steak house with multiple prep and line cooks, but Kitty is the only cook at this steak house. The only one. Her ability to work her way through hand-written tickets from the two lone servers, son George and employee JoLayne, would be a task shied away from by cooks half her age. But Kitty only shies away from interviews and self-boasting, as hard work is all she knows.

     It's not often that an individual stays at a job well past the acceptable age of retirement, but it's even more rare when that same person has held that particular job for over 65 years. Yet that is exactly what Kitty Pappas herself has just recently accomplished, as her namesake restaurant recently celebrated 65 years in business with Kitty at the helm.

      Her strong work ethic began as the young wife of a Greek entrepreneur who bought The Scenic Inn, an old diner on highway 89, and put his wife to work as the sole waitress while he manned the kitchen. The Pappas renamed the diner, and began the tradition still in place today of serving big steaks and hearty hamburgers.

    When her husband Johnny passed away in 1963, Kitty wasted no time in taking over where her late husband had left off, and she took over the kitchen. Kitty continued the lifestyle she had started with her husband in 1947, only now as a single mom who raised her children alone in the living quarters attached to the back of the restaurant. 

One of her children is now as much a part of the dining experience at Kitty Pappas as the signature steaks. George Pappas, better known as "Crazy George", wears his nickname proudly as he single-handedly manages all the tables in the back dining room. Uninformed patrons who mistakenly ask for steak sauce will get a tongue lashing for the implied insult towards his momma's cooking skills, and you better believe that George will say what he thinks of any other offenses one might commit. This behavior is not only accepted, but welcomed, by many regular diners and George seems to thrive on the attention he gets for the abusive entertainment he provides.

     Front counter server JoLayne Thompson, herself a 25 year veteran of the diner, shares that George is "a real circus act" in the back dining room. Thompson herself seems in sharp contrast to George, and is as calm and sweet to the patrons as George is rough and abrasive. 

The two dining areas, though similar in retro style, also seem in contrast to one another. Where the front counter has a light-hearted feel, with lots of vintage charm and appeal accompanied by plenty of natural daylight, the back dining room is dark and slightly ominous. Tall backed-booths line the walls around the dining room, and a cluster of tables fills the center. Surprisingly, there are flowers in vases on each of the tables, a feminine touch from Kitty that is unexpected in the den-like atmosphere that George makes his own.

      A shrine to skiing lines the front wall, and JoLayne shared that George's ski-bum reputation is well-deserved in the winter months when he practices pagan-like rituals for the snow gods. The sconces next to the tables proved to be too bright for the dark nature of the room, so George bought a close-out batch of ugly black ball-caps to cover them, thus adding to the overall sombre feel of the room.

In the front entry, which also houses the front counter area, the original 1950's cash-register stands proudly next to the kitchen entrance right below a large Budweiser promotional clock. The walls lining the area in front of the counter area have a strange juxtaposition of old and new, as vintage glasses are stacked next to Led Zepplin posters, and co-ed softball trophies claim space next to a new LED Coors Beer sign.

     It is surprising to see a small wall-mounted flat screen TV at the far end of the counter, as one could not help but wonder if there was any sort of modern technology at use in this facility. However, the two modern digital pinball machines placed on either side of the door belie the expectation that nearly everything in this space should be as antiquated as the linoleum flooring. 

Back in the kitchen, Kitty is always hard at work, and she states repeatedly that she doesn't have time to talk about her restaurant because she is too busy working. She arrives in the kitchen at 6am every Tuesday through Saturday and she stays there until after closing each night, usually around 10pm. For a woman in her 80's, that is indeed an impressive and commendable feat, and she comments that "I have more work to do than I have time for".

     The grill and fryer are not Kitty's only companions in the kitchen, as she is an accomplished baker and spends most of her mornings with the oven creating her signature from-scratch cakes and cheesecakes fresh each day. Lucky patrons who happen to stop in for a visit during the holiday season and find that Kitty's Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese frosting is available that day will thank their good fortune indeed. 

And if it snows soon, one might want to thank Crazy George for opening the heavens.  

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