Main Street mainstay turns 100
By Ted Potrikus
Ah, the Cooperstown Diner. That table in the back sure looks promising, let’s sit there!
But wait – there’s a placard clipped into the condiment tray, on which is printed a brief verse:
“To ye whose eyes rest upon this spot/Let it be known that it’s already got/by a daily knot of men of Cooperstown.”
Often true in 2021 at the 136½ Main Street landmark, and often true since the original owners opened the doors one century ago.
But if the ‘daily knot’ is in its appointed spot, you can always pull up a stool at the counter or take a seat at one of the other tables there.
This year, Cooperstown Diner manager Caspar Ewig marks the 100th anniversary of the restaurant’s December 9, 1921 groundbreaking with a new menu featuring all-time diner favorites, new offerings, specials, take-out, and everything that has made the place a village mainstay for years.
That ‘daily knot’ of Cooperstown residents? One would be hard-pressed to find a Cooperstown resident of any gender who hasn’t, more than once, worked out a problem, mapped out a strategy, plotted a new course, caught up with friends, or done just about anything else convivial over a meal at the Cooperstown Diner.
And often at that back table.
Mr. Ewig took the helm at the Diner just as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold and, as The Freeman’s Journal reported at the time, prepped it for reopening for take-out in May 2020.
“We love that this is a place where locals know they can stop in for a good meal at a good price,” he said while sorting through the prior day’s tickets and talking about inventory.
“That’s the part of the job that’s not as much fun as coming up with menu ideas and trying out new dishes,” he said. “We have to run the business in the right way to keep the doors open and keep people coming in.”
“It’s great to see so many familiar faces coming in all the time,” he said.
“Think about this,” Mr. Ewig said. “For one hundred years, people have been eating at this very spot. Talking about their businesses, meeting with friends, sitting at the counter for a good meal.”
Mr. Ewig shared a piece of paper over breakfast and a cup of coffee.
“I’ve done a little research into other things happening in 1921 and came up with this whole list of food products that first appeared the same year they first broke ground on this diner,” he said. “Wise Potato Chips. Wheaties. Eskimo Pies. Laughing Cow Cheese. The Baby Ruth candy bar!”
“It looks like 1921 was a great year for longevity in the food business,” he said.
The Cooperstown Diner’s outward appearance hasn’t changed all that much in decades, the interior remaining as inviting and authentic as one could hope in a time when the world around it seems to be hyper-modernizing at
“The good news is I’ve finally settled on a really good coffee to pour,” Mr. Ewig said. (Editor’s note: Can confirm.)
As he sketched out some menu thoughts, he added, “We’re working on some ideas for family-style dinners and comfort food, and of course we have our breakfast and lunch regulars.”
Like any manager of a small business, Mr. Ewig wears a lot of hats in the Cooperstown Diner. Manager, waiter, chef, cook, busser, cashier, community ambassador, troubleshooter.
“I hadn’t thought I’d be doing something like this but when it became a possibility, I thought, ‘why not?”
he said. “Now I get to kick it off for another century on Main Street!”
I’ve never been able to get in there no matter what time of year we go to Cooperstown…. You must be doing something right😊
My sister, Margie Strait owed it for many years and I would very often get a call that someone was out sick and could I come fill in which I did. It was such fun as the regulars and Margie had such an ongoing rapport with each other. Lots of laughs and a fun place to work.