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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Original Market Diner: Feels Like Home

The famous Natelie Woodley, left, with my wife and our waitress
Editor's note: Barbecued Adventures will be relaunched in early 2014 with new posts about barbecue, pitmasters and related travel. This post about a delightful place for a good Southern breakfast dates back to Jan. 23, 2011. Thank you for reading and please come back often.

For many years, a former Army cook named Bruce Collier ran one of my favorite restaurants at 620 W. Fifth St. in Bloomington, Ind.

Bruce's cafe opened at 3 a.m. each morning to appreciative diners who had either spent the night drinking or studying.

Before closing 12 hours later each day, Bruce's would serve a broad cross-section of individuals who likely saw it as an extension of home.

I always enjoyed sitting at the counter so I could watch Mr. Collier move with perpetual motion to efficiently handle food on the griddle, while also maneuvering to make toast, pour coffee and handle other tasks.

Of course, he never could resemble the multiple-armed Hindu goddess Kali, but I would imagine that she couldn’t have done much better making breakfast, breaded tenderloins or the occasional fried brain sandwich.

In 1985, the breakfast special -- two eggs, sausage and biscuits and gravy -- would run you $1.40, plus tax. I often added the hash browns for another 70 cents. Coffee would take the tab up to $2.50.

Bruce’s closed in 1989 and has never really been replaced. In this era of Cracker Barrel, it has become even more special when you find places like this on the road. We found such a place in Dallas, Texas, appropriately called the Original Market Diner.

Just like Bruce's, the Original Market Diner has a counter.
The Birmingham Post-Herald (which folded in 2005) once had a columnist named Mitch Mendelson who once proclaimed, “Praise Greeks for the restaurants they grow.” No surprise, the Original Market Diner has its roots in Greece.

Built in 1954 as a drive-in in the Stemmons Corridor, about 35 years ago Sam and Kathy Vergos purchased it and ran it under various names until the early 1980s. Current owner Jimmy Vergos recalled, on the diner’s home page, that his Pappou (Greek for grandpa) used to serve beer on tap and his Yia Yia (Grandma) worked the cash register.

The family reacquired the restaurant in 1989 and Jimmy took it over in 2001. It was so difficult to decide what to order from their expansive breakfast and home-style favorites that we ate here two days in a row (Yes, it has a daily Blue Plate Special).

Like Bruce’s, not only can you get biscuits and gravy but hash browns too. The three-egg omelets were amazing and my only regret was that I didn’t order from their array of waffles.

It’s no surprise that the Original Market Diner has been frequently honored by the Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Observer, D Magazine and Texas Monthly.

Also making you feel at home at the Original Market Diner is a colorful and well-adorned waitress named Natalie Woodley. From the moment you walk in the door, you can’t miss her big black beehive hair, thick makeup and more jewelry than is humanly necessary.

Natalie was not our waitress , but she gladly spent a couple of minutes with us after paid our tab. In 2007, she was described in the Zagat guide as "the sassiest host in Dallas.” Last year, she was named "Best Waitress" by readers of the Dallas Voice news weekly (Our waitress was great too).

She told me about her first career at an insurance company and showed me a picture of herself with actress Sharon Stone. She told me how many of her customers got together to hire one of the actors of “Will and Grace” to help her celebrate her birthday.

I have to admit that I felt a little overwhelmed being around such a celebrity.

Location we visited:
Original Market Diner
4434 Harry Hines Blvd.
Dallas, Texas

Original Market Diner on Urbanspoon


  1. Bruce Collier was my great-uncle -- he was a fabulous cook, made the best pies, and had a huge heart -- we all miss him a lot!
    Kathy P

  2. I loved eating at Bruce's in the 1980s. They had brains on the menu and the German students that I hung out with loved seeing that.

    Jeanne K

  3. I was just thinking about my college days and thought about Bruce's. It was an institution for sure. No experience of IU culture could be complete without 3am B & G run to Bruce's. Sorry to hear it closed but thanks for the great memories!

  4. 35 years later and I'm still trying to find a breakfast as good as Bruce's!

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