T here’s something to be said about sitting down at a diner and immediately being greeted with a smile and a cup of coffee. Several establishments in Kane County have carried on the all-American tradition, serving as a friendly face to the community for decades.
One of Geneva’s oldest establishments, the Geneva Diner, originally started in a railroad car in 1921. Although they’re no longer serving pancakes from inside an old vestibule, its menu includes homemade fare just like Mom used to make.
“It’s all homemade food, which people like,” manager Alex Ajazi says. “It’s family-owned. People like to come in and sit at the counter. It’s just like the old times. Who doesn’t like home cooking, you know?”
Part of that “home-cooking” feel that goes hand-in-hand with diners comes from the use of fryers and skillets as the main source of cooking.
Pancakes, hash browns, omelets, and biscuits and gravy are just a few of the staples that can be found at most diners, with many adding a fun twist to the classics.
When Karen Ortiz and her husband, Noe, first purchased State Street Diner about 15 years ago, they set out with the goal of combining fresh Mexican food with the regular diner classics. Now the duo boasts a menu that offers a slew of Mexican dishes, in addition to classic skillets and sandwiches.
“Consistency is key,” Karen Ortiz says. “We try not to make too many changes, because when people go to a diner, they know what they want. We have that old-fashioned, your-coffee-is-on-your-table kind of establishment. They know what they’re going to order, and we know how you like it.”
Definitely not a stranger to his customers, Noe Ortiz worked at Mel’s Diner, the former restaurant that occupied the space, and has been working in the same building for more than 20 years.
Daddio’s Diner in Batavia is another establishment that provides a fresh take on prototypical dishes. Owners Scott and Terry Beltran pride themselves on their “No Way Jose” special – a breakfast tostada with chipotle bacon refried beans – as well as the pancakes, which are as a big as one of the vinyl records donning the walls of the establishment.
“It’s an old-school diner,” Scott Beltran says. “We do all the cooking right in front of everyone. It’s not your cookie-cutter joint. It’s from scratch home cooking. I call people by their names when they walk in the door.”
Scott Beltran has 40 years as an executive chef under his belt, but he and Terry Beltran always knew they wanted to own their own diner, and are now celebrating 10 years at Daddio’s. They’ve recently updated the décor at the establishment, and even have an “I SPY” game that incorporates all of the trinkets on display at the restaurant.
“We’re really the last of a dying breed,” Beltran says.
The diners that have stuck it out all these years and are still around in Kane County definitely warrant a visit, if not for the nostalgia, than at least for the food.
If you go
134 W. Wilson St.
State Street Diner
630 W. State St.
14 S. 2nd St.