Along with the sizzling sounds of the grill and the propellers of helicopters outside, '50s themed Ozzie's Diner has made its home in the Max Westheimer Airport for over 30 years. While the locally owned business only accepts cash, Ozzie's loyal customers come for the neighborly wait staff and affordable, cooked to order entrees like the fresh ground rib-eye steak.
Over the music playing in the background, the sound of chatter and silverware clinking against plates, Derek Van Norstrand, owner and general manager of Ozzie's, said the diner started in 1986 as a donut shop. Six years later, the restaurant spread to serving lunch and then quickly changed to serving all three meals of the day.
Ozzie's is family-owned, and Derek Van Norstrand helps his father Mart Van Norstrand run the business.
The diner has a six-page menu offering meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. All you can eat courses are available and made “cook to order” so the food will not touch a grill until it is ordered, Derek Van Norstrand said.
Customers can usually purchase a full meal for under $7 and the meal portions are rather large for the prices. A 7 oz. steak can be ordered off the breakfast menu with two eggs made any style, fries or hashbrowns, and toast or biscuits and gravy for $9.79, according to Ozzie’s menu. Breakfast starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. Breakfast ends at 12:30 p.m. and 2:45 pm on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Another characteristic of the diner is its daily specials offered Monday through Friday, including Indian tacos, homemade onion burgers and all you can eat pick shrimp, Derek Van Norstrand said.
Keeping up with the daily specials is made easy with the Ozzie’s Diner app, which is available to download for free. The app sends customers push notifications about the daily specials. Customers can also have daily specials sent through text message throughout the week.
Although the diner encourages its customers to use the daily specials app, it doesn’t accept credit cards, but “it is something that we want to adapt,” Derek Van Norstrand said.
Accepting credit cards would cause Ozzie’s to raise its prices because it would be required to pay a third party company for the ability to use credit card services. However, there is an ATM for customers to use outside the doors of the restaurant.
During the regular 4:30 p.m. rush hour, waiters move from table to table, with smiles on their faces. Employees hear customers say that they love the food and the area that it is in, Joni Embry, Ozzie's cashier said. The attitude from the employees to the customers, helps Ozzie's feel like home.
Journalism professor John Schmeltzer said he has been visiting Ozzie’s almost every Sunday since 2009.
Schmeltzer goes to Ozzie’s with Julie Jones, fellow journalism professor. At the time, he said he was amazed Ozzie’s wasn’t well known among OU students.
"It has since become a regular Sunday morning haunt for us," Schmeltzer said. “It was a place Julie and I could meet and discuss issues we were dealing with and planning classes.”
Schmeltzer has also taken many TAs along with him starting with Mark Potts, who now works at the Los Angeles Times and was on a Pulitzer-winning team. It was the all you can eat breakfast that made his TAs fans of the restaurant, he said.
“It is an inexpensive place to meet with colleagues, TAs and my students,” Schmeltzer said. “We don’t ask to reserve a table but Evelyn, who was our server for many years, knows where we sit.”
As Evelyn has moved to the cash register, she and another server, Jaime, bring a cup of coffee for Schmeltzer and a coke for Jones when they first arrive. To this day, it is still Schmeltzer's favorite place to go to for breakfast, he said.
Ozzie's Diner may have an old timey feel, but it works to accommodate its customers with food allergies.
"If you ask our waiters and waitress what you would like to know, like what we can make without things such as gluten, we will be able to provide that for you," Derek Van Norstrand said.
Ozzie's seems to be the best-kept secret of Norman as not many OU students regularly attend the business, but that’s something Van Norstrand hopes will change. The prices are within a college student's range. Additionally, buses run from a stop on Lexington Street to the airport terminal closest to Ozzie's in the normal rotation. The bus stop is about 50-yard walk from the diner, Derek Van Norstrand said.
Ozzie's long life can be attributed to customers like Janice Jansing. She has been going to Ozzie's for about 15 years and has lived in the Norman area with her husband for almost her whole life, she said.
"We come here at least once a week," Jansing said. "My husband sometimes three or four. He loves getting the meatloaf."