As the faithful syndicated television watchers that we Americans are, we know nothing if not the brotherly love-ly lyrics to the Cheers intro: “You wanna be where you can see/ Our troubles are all the same. /You wanna be where everybody knows your name”. And isn’t that all any of us really wants? To mauw down on some comfort food, shootin’ the shit with the Cliff to our Norm [yes, you’re the Norm].
Think this diner of dreams exists only in TV Land marathons? Think again. In fact, the notion of a cozy haunt with neat eats and a swell staff is alive and well in Salt Lake’s very own Blue Plate Diner [and has been since, like, forever]. Blue Plate is seated squarely at 21st and 21st, and it’s one of the few [coveted] places in our city that will get you a plate of really tasty grub on all seven days of the week. They’re not interested in changing up the menu with the seasons, nor does anyone want them to do so; according to City Weekly [and plenty of other sources] Blue Plate has consistently dished up SLC’s best breakfast for, like, the last 75 years or so.
Last week, we sashayed into the the diner for a touch of nostalgia, a cup of coffee, and some proper breakfast [documented beautifully by our pal, Renata Stone]. Then we sat down with Joe to hash out [ha!] all the greasy, delicious deets on America’s favorite Utah diner.
If Blue Plate is SLC’s proxy to Cheers, then manager Joe mandl is a regular Sam Malone...and we’ll be his Diane anyday.
You’ve got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty all up in here, and it’s our understanding that a grip of them are gifts from fans far and wide. What’s the strangest thing you’ve been gifted from an admirer? We have had so many oddities come through that door–for instance, the pull-string Jesus doll that recites Bible verses. We used to have a Ralphy doll from A Christmas Story, and we once had a guy bring in 10 ft. long skis that he claimed were from the 1800′s. The best part: he was going to loan them to us for some free food. To his request, we politely declined. But I think the gift that left us all in wonderment would have to be an empty can of Nu-Nile hair slick dressing pomade.
Your site encourages visitors to send love via postcard–many of which are hanging up in the interior. What’s the farthest destination from which you’ve gotten props? The postcards come from anywhere and everywhere. The whole post card thing started when a few people who worked at the diner would send them while on vacation, then a couple regulars started sending them while they were traveling. Then folks that would stop by the diner traveling through would send them once they arrived home. But to answer your question, truly they are from everywhere: South Africa, all through Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Russia. We sometimes even get them from Salt Lake and Provo.
Your little operation is located smack dab in the middle of one of Salt Lake’s most coveted neighborhoods–Foothill. Is there anything you adore about your primo locale that we need to get hip to? Spedellis–it’s the homies spot. Their pizza is really killer. [Foothill] has some good stuff–there is a frozen yogurt shop up the road and a second hand shop across the street, but as far as our actual corner of 21st and 21st, Blue Plate and Great Harvest are about it–unless you really like gas stations.
"Breakfast cures hangovers, and it can be the start to best day ever..."
The interior of the diner–from the bar to the soda fountain–seems to be a hodgepodge of authentic something-or-others from years gone by. How’d you come by all these rad pieces? The bar came from Salina Drug in Salina, UT, on highway 89, which is a really cool drive. I highly suggest it. It has a lot of really cool towns along it that time totally forgot. The booths came from the old Cowboy Club, a lot of our chairs once lived in a Cafe Rio, and the rest was donated over the years. It’s not that we’re cheap, we just really like to recycle.
We love breakfast just about as much as we love Salt Lake City. What’s got you all enamored-like with two of our favorite things? Well, who doesn’t like breakfast? Not only is it the most important meal of the day, but it’s the cheapest. As for the old SLC–greatest place on earth. The city and surrounding areas literally have everything from camping and hiking and fishing in the summer to every kind of winter sport. We have the greatest snow on earth [I’m not lying, a license plate told me], and we even have a quasi ocean. How can you argue?
Y’all have been City Weekly’s “Best Breakfast” reigning champs for the better part of the last decade. What is it about Blue Plate’s gold-medal grub that so consistently hits the spot? It’s made with looooove. Fourteen years running we have been voted best breakfast by City Weekly, twice by Q Salt Lake and Salt Lake Magazine. We made KSL’s A List over four times, and we were given the title Local Favorite from Yelp. Over 75% of our menu is made from scratch. All of our recipes have been created in-house and run as specials until we perfect the recipe and add it to the menu. Plus, we treat the diner as a home. Everyone who works here cares about the place as if it were theirs. Most of our employees have been here a better part of a decade. I have personally seen half of my staff grow up, and we feel that is one of our biggest attractions. It’s kind of like going to grandma’s house or Cheers. Everyone knows your name.
Followers of @blueplatedinerslc’s Instagram will attest to your envy-worthy following of celebs. What do you attribute to your slew of star-studded supporters, and how do you keep on the radar of such distinguished luminaries as Charlie Murphy and Drew Carey? Oh, Instagram. You know, it’s such a bummer when you post what you think is the best photo ever and nobody likes it, and then @natgeo posts a picture of a crack in the sidewalk and it gets five million likes in less than a nanosecond. As far as our star-studded list of customers, I truly have no idea how these people hear of the diner. Sundance is always a fun time around here. We get a lot of people dressed in lowered baseball hats and sunglasses. A lot of Jazz players come by. Most of them have been very nice–they are always willing to take a photo with the some of the staff and chit chat for a while. My favorite is when teams of pro skateboard or snowboarders come through on their tours. It’s always funny to see the diner half filled with grimy skate rats trying to cure their hangover while being hounded by 12 year olds.
Your American History trivia-themed placemats must have given your entire staff a Rain Man-type knowledge of US Presidents and state capitols. Quick–what’s the capital of Rhode Island? Truly the place mat thing is a story within itself. For 6 years now I have been looking, waiting, trying to find a Utah or Salt Lake City placemat. There is just no such thing. [We used to have] a connect-the-dots placemat that would form the Blue Plate arrow. It had a breakfast word search and other games–those were the best. [We also had] these lame green ones that would stain your arm and our tables if they got wet. So we went the old Bill and Nada’s route with the presidents, and a couple years ago we found the capitals. The capitals one is the best–when we first got those in, it was like a race within the staff to be the first one who could fill it in all in one sitting. So yes, now we are all experts when it comes to third grade geography. And it’s Providence.