Occasionally my husband obsesses about one thing or another, usually involving food. Not really in a bad way — just in a slightly annoying way. Once it was about eating at a supper club near Minocqua called Wisconsonaire. Whenever we’d pass it he’d say, “Wisconsonaire.” We eventually ate there and he decided it was not what he’d hoped and now has a slight distaste for “Supper Clubs”. Another of his obsessions was a restaurant we used to pass by when we drove to a couple of wrestling meets to watch our son wrestle. It was a huge lodge-type place in Rockville that he’d eaten at once before and thought I’d enjoy it. He was right about that one. We’ve been to Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge a few times and plan to go back again. His latest obsession turned out to be the best: Donna’s Diner in Elyria, Ohio.
When we were discussing when we should leave Bethesda for Oberlin, Ohio to visit our son for Family Weekend, Dean thought we should time it so we could eat lunch at Donna’s Diner. I asked him what Donna’s Diner was and he said he read about it in the NY Times. I thought he’d seen an ad or review for it and that it must be special if a newspaper in New York mentioned a restaurant in Ohio. I did look up Donna’s Diner, and found a Website for one that looked like fun, but then saw that it was in Pennsylvania.
When I searched for “Donna’s Diner” and “Ohio” and “NY Times” I found an article about a down-on-its-heels town and a diner that looked less fun than the one in Pennsylvania. I didn’t have time to read the article, but put it on my to-do list.
We didn’t eat lunch at Donna’s Diner on the way to see Andrew, but did drive through Elyria, Ohio — the subject of the NY Times article — and saw where Donna’s Diner was located. We considered eating dinner there, but were not sure it was open for dinner. What struck me, however, was the fact that they offered a Mac-and-cheese bar: “Your Way!” “Made Fresh”.
The next day Dean suggested we go to Elyria for lunch and Andrew was up for it. We parked close-by and walked into the diner. We were seated right away and asked what was a “must-have” on the menu. The hostess suggested the Donna Burger. I asked about the Mac-and-cheese bar but it was not set up. Our server called back “Nanna — can you set up the mac-and-cheese bar?” Nanna (aka Donna) called back, “Yes — it will only take me a minute.”
So that’s how Dean, Diane, Andrew and I got to eat at Donna’s Diner and meet the star of a 5-part article from the New York Times. Andrew and I had a nice conversation with her about the article and her plans for a “White Christmas” themed event around Christmas. She hoped to get some Oberlin students involved — perhaps with caroling around the city square.
The food was very good. Dean loved his Donna Burger and Andrew enjoyed his Reuben My mac-and-cheese was rich and delicious (I opted for garlic, chives and mushrooms) and far too much for me to eat on my own. Andrew got to take it back to his dorm room for later consumption.
I finally read the Donna’s Diner part of the NY Times article this morning. She and I have some things in common — we are nearly the same age, her father was in the Navy. We both grew up in Midwestern towns that begin with the letter E — and Elyria reminds me a little of Elgin. But about the time I was getting ready to go to England for the first time she was pregnant with her first child. She’s had to struggle. I’ve had life easy. She’s an icon in her hometown. I rarely visit my hometown, having moved away decades ago.
I’m so glad we got to visit Donna’s Diner and I hope that it is around for a long time. I hope that the article helps the diner and the town somehow. We’ll go back for lunch when we visit Oberlin — that much is certain.
Oh, and that other Donna’s Diner? The one in Pennsylvania? I’m sure it is not nearly as nice or friendly or fun or delicious as Donna’s Diner in Elyria, Ohio.