Dives And Diners — 2023 Road Trip For A Homesick America — The Diner In Warsaw And Chubbies In Syracuse
Text and Photos
By Shari Benyousky
Editor’s Note: This is the second column in the Dives and Diners series in which a small group of Warsaw Breakfast Optimist Club members and their guests road trip to explore the diners and dives of Kosciusko and the surrounding area.
“I brought a hairbrush.” Remax Realtor Jeff Owens folded his tall frame into the diner chair across the table. A black brush missing several bristles quivered on the Chubbies’ table. We all leaned to stare. “Everyone, and I mean Everyone, is commenting on my hair from the first article.”
He picked up the menu. “I can’t go anywhere.” I waved my phone camera with a grin, and he picked up the brush to preen. “How do I look?” The others around the table frowned. Two didn’t need brushes for their hair and one wore a baseball cap.
“Does one need to comb their hair to go to a diner?” I looked around at the gleaming signs, packed tables, and polished surfaces. “Are we actually in a diner?” We contemplated the problem. “I think Chubbies might actually be a sports bar. It’s too nice to be a true diner.”
Attorney Tony Garza put forth the speculation that diners or dives might need to include bikers and tattoos and jukeboxes. Realtor Owens agreed a real dive needs to include “some sense of risk.” 24-7 Car Guy Chris Plack turned to look at what was on tap. Jack-of-all-Trades Builder Charlie Wagner, who had invited us to Syracuse, shrugged. “I love Chubbies,” he said with a grin.
Chubbies is a Syracuse restaurant and bowling alley located at 1201 S. Huntington St. Since we had arrived on a blustery Thursday, our waitress Amanda informed us it was ½ pound Build-a-Burger day. Served with lettuce, tomato, pickle on the side.
“What toppings do you want?” Her pen poised above a notebook and then, seeing our confused looks, pointed at the topping list.
“Frizzled onions?” I asked. “Definitely not a dive.” This did not stop me from ordering frizzled onions (deep-fried) and pineapple on my burger. No doubt some of you will judge. The others ordered more traditional toppings like bacon. There was a digression to discuss types of cheese since Chubbies offers seven varieties. Our waitress put her pen behind her ear and went away.
“Cheese whiz,” put forth 24-7 Car Guy Plack, “may not be cheese, but it’s definitely edible.” I vehemently disagreed.
Realtor Owens thought about it a minute. “If you were hungry after a long day and cheese whiz and crackers sat on the table, would you eat it?”
“Maybe after two days?” I decided, which of course meant cheese whiz does count as a food. Builder Wagner listened to us with a headshake and decided to order a chicken cordon blue sandwich instead. The waitress patiently finished writing down our orders and refilled our drinks.
Our food arrived shortly thereafter and the table was silenced for several minutes. I realized, too late, that picking up my enormous burger was a solid commitment. Builder Wagner lifted his knife.
“You cut it in half first, so you have an intermission,” he told me wisely. I wondered how I would write down any notes with juice running down my wrists.
24-7 Car Guy Plack had a dreamy look on his face. “Good burger?” Attorney Garza asked. “Absolutely!” 24-7 Car Guy Plack paused. “Wait, I need to rethink that quote. Hold on.” He pulled out his phone for a minute and looked up. “This burger is so good,” he smiled. “That it reminds me of a specific really nice 2013 Volkswagon Passat SEL on my lot. Both are filling. And get lots of mileage.” I may have rolled my eyes.
“Great value for the price?” prompted builder Wagner. Car Guy Plack nodded happily, juice dripping down his chin.
We all loved everything we ordered (except Builder Charlie who isn’t a “coleslaw kind of guy”) even if Chubbies isn’t really a true diner. Builder Charlie decided that it might be a need-a-bath after kind of place instead. And that’s just fine.
When You Visit Chubbies Tips
Chubbies promotes some daily specials. Tuesdays are tenderloins, Wednesdays all-you-can-eat frog legs, Thursdays one-half pound build a burger, and Saturdays wings or prime rib. My burger with two toppings, a diet coke, and a tip cost $15.
The Diner, Warsaw
Across the county a more traditional diner sits just east of the Kosciusko Old Courthouse Building at 114 N. Buffalo St. On a gray Friday around 11:30 a.m. I arrived first to find a booth in the back corner. 24-7 Car Guy Plack arrived a few minutes later
and begged me to change seats.
“Why?” I sipped my Diet Coke. He pointed to the side of the booth. I leaned over to see a silver plaque affixed to the next booth. The Plack plaque read “The Plack Family Chris, Jamie, Sullivan & Charlotte Est. 2009.”
“My family sponsored the booth to fix the torn vinyl covers,” 24-7 Car Guy Plack explained. I remembered the former red seat covers stuck together with duct tape.
What I actually pictured was a particular meltingly hot summer day when I had come into The Diner with bare legs. I shivered. The new black covers are a very nice upgrade indeed.
On the Friday we had chosen, The Diner was a bustling place with few empty seats. Realtor Owens and 1st Source Banker Paul Finley arrived and shook hands with a large group of local politicians seated in the middle of the restaurant as they made their way to the back.
Another large table with people of all ages appeared to be ready to celebrate someone’s birthday. When our waitress Becca arrived and someone from the table put a blinking pink sash and a large ribbon on her, we realized it was her birthday. Everyone in the restaurant sang as she blushed.
We did the tough mental calculations to decide whether we would order lunch or breakfast food as we watched Fryin’ Brian whip everything up at the grill. He never paused as he maintained a friendly stream of conversation with everyone at the counter and the waitresses coming and going with platters of steaming food.
We looked at the menu. “Order the bacon,” 24-7 Plack said. “Seriously, they have the best bacon in town here.” This jump-started a discussion on what makes good bacon. Thick? Thin? Crunchy? Chewy? Made on a cast iron skillet or baked in the oven? Owens even dared to suggest that candied bacon could be a thing.
We decided that choosing the award for the best bacon in town had to be “everyday bacon.” This was to eliminate the mind-blowing annual bacon sampler that the 110 Craft Meatery offered next door.
Clearly that was a special occasion bacon. However, if you like crunchy bacon, like 24-7 Car Guy Plack does, the diner is your spot for gastronomic heaven. If you prefer breakfast or lunch food, Realtor Owens suggests biscuits and gravy topped with
scrambled eggs and hot sauce. I know what you’re thinking because I thought it too. Look, at this point in the series, you already know how foodie we all rate, so make up your own minds.
Either way, The Diner serves hot, fresh, food that makes homesick Kosciusko residents drool.
When You Eat At The Diner Tips
The diner is cozy and full of regulars. Pull up a seat and say hello to anyone you like.
If you come near Christmas early on a Saturday morning, you might even catch the Warsaw Breakfast Optimist Singers caroling a packed-out house of residents who have come to the diner for decades.