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Tiffany's Diner Offers Personable Experience, Great Food

These secrets from Tiffany's Diner reveal why the Maplewood restaurant has been so successful.

From the outside, it's difficult to tell that is always packed with people.

But the Maplewood diner was in business long before Manchester Road was jam-packed with shops and restaurants.

"For a long time we were the only place around," owner Greg Winchel said.

Winchel has kept the tradition going for about 17 years, when he took the business over. The diner is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week except Sundays from 2-9 p.m.

Sometimes, it's so busy that the diner is standing room only.

How can that be? Is it that the diner is the only restaurant left open on a Saturday night when the bars close and tipsy residents wander the streets looking for decent grub?

That's a good possibility, but I've been to Courtesy Diner and never had to wait for a table. Tiffany's secret lies in a couple different elements - the ingredients they use and the staff they employ.

Cooks at Tiffany's cut their own potatoes for hash browns fresh every single day. Think about that for a moment. Almost every single option on the menu comes with hash browns, so that means the diner goes through a lot of potatoes.

"About 600 pounds a week," confirmed Wichel.

The staff enhances the experience ten-fold. Wichel recommended I head to the diner for an interview at 2 a.m. on a Saturday night. When I arrived, I talked to Darryl, who requested his last name not be used in this article.

With slicked back black hair, black jeans and a black shirt on, Darryl didn't quite fit the typical short order cook look, but he definitely fit the role. Quippy with the customers (bordering on abusive, though in a funny way) and fast at getting orders out, Darryl can handle the busiest rush and the tipsiest customer.

When asked what his favorite menu item is, Darryl's immediately suggested items off the menu.

A conossieur of diner food, some of Darryl's off-the-menu creations include a deep fried Twinkie wrapped in bacon and The Fatso Burger, which is pretty much a slinger on a bun, served open-faced with double the hamburger.

I tried the bacon-wrapped Twinkie, and it was delicious even as I felt my arteries clog. Darryl takes a piece of raw bacon, about one foot long, and rolls the entire thing around a single Twinkie, using its natural fat to hold the whole thing together. He drops it in a 350-degree deep fryer, and, like magic, a savory-sweet treat emerges. Oh, and he tops it with powdered sugar.

You'd have to go to Tiffany's frequently to even know about it though. "It's definitely a local favorite", Darryl said.

The Twinkie filling is slightly gooey and great with the crispy bacon. Darryl takes his job very seriously, even though he clearly has fun while doing it. "This is the best job I've ever had," Darryl said.

After coming in every day for weeks begging to be given something to do, Darryl said Winchel finally gave in and gave him a job. You'll never meet a prouder short order cook, I can tell you that. He boasts about the fresh potatoes, and is able to cook with other top ingredients.

"We use the best grade meat we can find," Winchel said. You can taste the difference.

Eating top-notch food like this while listening to customers banter with Darryl, you forget for a moment that you're only paying $14 for two people (my comrade had an omelette and I also had a slinger - while the slinger/twinkie combo made my stomach angry, I didn't regret a second of it).

Many fancy restaurants are known for exuding passion every step of the way, which is part of why people pay so much for their food. Some people want to be taken care of when they go out to eat, but most just want to have an experience.

If you can get a great one for $14, can you beat that?

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