By JENNIFER HILL • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Whether you’re in the mood for a classic porkchop dinner, some classic Italian fare or even a pizza to take to a party, Nick’s Diner will soon have you covered.
Under the new ownership of Rodney Thorsland, the rennovated West End establishment is slated to open in early January. “The idea has always been to preserve it, to upgrade it, but have it historical-looking,” Thorsland said.
He and Ed May, who owns the property, appear to have fulfilled their vision. May, who worked on the building’s structural design, kept the arched ceilings and narrow width of the railroad car the diner’s founders used when they ran Bob & Dan’s Diner in 1927.
Thorsland focused on the interior, putting in new wooden floors, a polished countertop, furniture, and new, gleaming kitchen fixtures.
The combined restoration and historic preservation of Nick’s Diner has been a labor of love for May, who bought the property in 2015. May has lived in Oneonta for over 20 years, and like many long-term residents and natives here, he frequently went to Nick’s. He said he wanted to reinvest in the city by revitalizing the building, which had fallen into disrepair over the past 20 or so years. Thorsland described people’s arms falling through the worn countertop wood in the last few years Nick’s was operating.
May said people from all walks of life came to Nick’s — railroad workers on their lunch breaks, college students for late-night refueling, and families for inexpensive dining out. Both men described Nick’s Diner as an important institution in Oneonta, both for city and town residents as well as people from all over the country, who would hear about it and flock to it during summer tours of diners. “It’s the only real diner left in Oneonta,” Thorsland said.
In September, Thorsland worked with the City of Oneonta to apply for a $230,000 Community Development Block Grant, administered by the state, to help him finish the project.
Thorsland intends to preserve much of the old diner’s menu as well. “We’ll be serving classic diner food, burgers and porkchops,” he said, “As well as a few Italian dishes, such as spaghetti and meatballs and Eggplant Parmisian.”
And, of course, there will also be a full array of desserts, including homemade pies and cakes. He described the menu as “a step above” in quality, but “affordable for everybody.”
But new to Nick’s Diner’s menu and service will be pizzeria dishes and “party packages” for take-out and delivery only. Thorsland explained the narrow room and tables that seat up to four can’t accommodate “large parties sharing a big pizza.”
Initially, Nick’s Diner’s hours of operation will be Monday to Friday, 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m to 10 p.m., but eventually it will be open 24 hours a day.