You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.

Norman's The Diner becomes local favorite, brings people together

  • Updated
  • 0
  • 3 min to read
The Diner

The outside of The Diner Nov. 6. The restaurant has been a shotgun-style diner for the past 70 years.

“Groovin'” by the Young Rascals played on the radio as the cook bustled behind the counter, cooking eggs, bacon and pancakes. The waitresses moved alongside the booths with wide smiles on their faces, chatting with customers and filling coffee mugs.

The Diner was busy for a Tuesday morning, with smiling customers filling every booth, but owner Bonnie Amspacher enjoyed the crowd.

The Diner is a breakfast and lunch restaurant located on Main Street that serves Tex-Mex and homestyle food. The restaurant has been in Amspacher’s family for the past 25 years but was originally built to be a chili parlor in the 1890s.

“It was connected to the barbershop next door, and it was owned by the same guy,” Amspacher said. “He would cut hair, then come over here and serve chili, and go back and forth.”

Over the years, The Diner has had many different names and several owners. However, it has been a shotgun-style diner — a restaurant that is long and narrow, often with a counter where customers can sit — for the past 70 years.

Amspacher’s father, Mark Amspacher, was an employee at the restaurant until the former owner had to shut the restaurant down. With the help of a friend, he was able to buy the restaurant and reopen it as The Diner.

“He scratched along and kept it up, and we got a reputation,” Amspacher said. “Now, we are a pretty good place.”

In 2009, The Diner was featured on Guy Fieri’s show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” and Amspacher said the restaurant received a lot of business from the television program.

“We get a ton of people that are like, ‘We saw you on TV!’” Amspacher said.

The Diner was also featured on the show “American Diner Revival” in 2015. The show remodeled The Diner — painting the walls, changing the floors and putting in new tables and booths.

Amspacher’s favorite part of The Diner is the open kitchen, which enables her to connect with the customers.

“I like being able to talk to the customers and hear what’s going on,” Amspacher said. 

Amspacher said she also likes the sense of community The Diner has built. She said a lot of her customers meet in the restaurant and get to know each other.

“I know two or three couples that met here and got married over the years,” Amspacher said.

While The Diner is a favorite spot among locals, Amspacher said out-of-town visitors also enjoy the tight-knit atmosphere of the restaurant.  

“I hear a lot of people who come in from out of town on football games and stuff, and they’re like, ‘I wish we had a place like this in our town,’” Amspacher said.  

Tia Robertson-Ross has only worked at The Diner for the past three months, but she has already fallen in love with the restaurant and her coworkers, she said.

“I really like that it’s a family-owned restaurant and that the girls I work with have families of their own,” Robertson-Ross said.

Robertson-Ross said The Diner has become a safe, welcoming space for people of all ages and backgrounds.

“Our food is Hispanic-intertwined,” Robertson-Ross said. “This is a place that celebrates heritage no matter what that is.”

Robertson-Ross has worked in a variety of restaurants, from an Olive Garden to a Saltgrass Steak House, and she said The Diner is very different because of the relationships it creates.

“It’s definitely community-based, so a lot of the people we have coming in here, like Joe or David, that come in almost every day,” Robertson-Ross said. “It’s really nice to get that camaraderie with people in the city.”

David Brooks has been coming to The Diner every morning for coffee and breakfast for the past 10 years. He said he still remembers the first time he walked through The Diner’s door and tasted the food. It reminded him of a diner he used to eat at as a kid.

“I felt at home,” Brooks said.

Brooks likes that The Diner is a local business where everyone knows one another.

“I’m all about supporting independent businesses,” Brooks said. “I think it’s the backbone of American democracy. Places like The Diner keep that spirit alive.”

Brooks’ favorite part of The Diner is the food. He said the workers always want to make customers happy.

“You come in here, and if they don’t have it on the menu, you can ask them, and they’ll fix it. Try that at Denny’s,” Brooks said.

The Diner is located at 213 E. Main St. It is open from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. 

Support independent journalism serving OU

Do you appreciate the work we do as the only independent media outlet dedicated to serving OU students, faculty, staff and alumni on campus and around the world for more than 100 years?

Then consider helping fund our endeavors. Around the world, communities are grappling with what journalism is worth and how to fund the civic good that robust news organizations can generate. We believe The OU Daily and Crimson Quarterly magazine provide real value to this community both now by covering OU, and tomorrow by helping launch the careers of media professionals.

If you’re able, please SUPPORT US TODAY FOR AS LITTLE AS $1. You can make a one-time donation or a recurring pledge.

Load comments