Pancakes, Eggs, and Elvis

[deck] Addi Hand’s retro diner is both an early morning hotspot and her dream fulfilled. [/deck]

[cap]T[/cap]eenagers are texting on cell phones between ravishing bites of luscious pancakes strategically soaked in maple syrup. The little old “Queen of Springfield,” distinguished by a jeweled silver tiara resting atop her head, cheerfully sips iced tea at the windowed booth closest to the jukebox. She adoringly watches “Elvis” sway rhythmically to the sound of his own voice. The vocals gracefully pour through the microphone, eventually filling the speakers, and the entire restaurant with the timeless melody. This Friday afternoon at Addi’s Diner in Springfield, Oregon, Elvis–known as David Lamond in his civilian life–has decided to open his weekly singing gig with Can’t Help Falling in Love, a number one single in the early 1960s.

Two elderly gentlemen are enjoying their brunch of home fries and scrambled eggs at another table across the room from “The Queen.” The man’s steady and gentle tune is cast into the air to join the energizing aromas of melted butter, Swiss mushroom burgers, and seventy-five-cent coffee.

Homemade biscuits, affordable endless coffee, and a zesty dining atmosphere consistently draw local Oregonians of every age to the modest square building on South A Street. Not even the area Springfield Police officers can resist the vintage charm and America’s favorite comfort foods. A group of about one dozen officers are usually the first customers of the business day, awakening even before the sun for access to a hearty meal before beginning their morning shifts.

“Between four and six in the morning, we have what we call our cop clientele,” Addi Hand says, the cheerful and optimistic twenty-six-year-old owner of Addi’s Diner. Unlike a typical small-town eatery, her Diner is distinct because of its unconventional business hours: 4 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. “The police officers come here to enjoy a good breakfast in the morning, to chat, and to have social time before the start of the day,” Hand says. The sight of one dozen fit, uniformed policemen casually feasting on scrambled eggs and giant pancakes beneath the unblinking eyes on hundreds of pieces of Betty Boop, Elvis Presley, and Marilyn Monroe memorabilia at 4:32 in the morning is uncanny and amusing. “Here, they can relax and enjoy a good meal,” Hand says of her law-enforcing restaurant patrons.

“This place is one-of-a-kind. It’s hard to describe,” Hand says. It isn’t just the vibrant collage of period memorabilia–an impressive and ever-growing collection of vintage souvenirs from the classic pop culture era–that makes this tiny but captivating eatery hard to describe. Like each of the pop culture treasures embellishing every wall of the establishment, the intrigue and the story behind Addi’s Diner is just as distinctive.

Hand proudly states that she doesn’t have a college degree. In order to bring Addi’s Diner to life she took the equity out of her first house at the age of twenty-two and used the funds to purchase the diner. “My plan was to jump in head first and just go for it–I had nothing holding me back,” she proudly says of Addi’s Diner. It is an uplifting treat to meet such a bubbly yet independently prosperous young woman at a time when most working-aged Oregonians are still feeling the aftershocks of a sluggish recession.

“Get your shit together, because once you’re eighteen-years-old, you’re out,” Hand’s parents told her throughout her youth. During high school, Hand constantly worked and religiously saved her earnings. By the time she graduated and moved out of the nest, Hand had $10,000 in her bank account and a dream to create a restaurant of her own. She was twenty-two-years-old when she purchased her first house. Two years later, she used the home’s equity to invest in remodeling and opening the eatery in Springfield that is now–literally–her dream come true.

“The customer is the reason I wake up at 2:30 in the morning.” Hand makes this declaration with a tone of ease and simplicity; like beginning a day before the sun is as relaxing and gratifying as enjoying an oldies hit playing from her 1989 jukebox between mouthfuls of freshly baked biscuit. For Hand, arriving at work before dawn is comparably fulfilling as enjoying fabulous music and hearty food. “I do things differently here,” she says. “I treat all of my customers like family, and they go out of their way to make our work fun. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t want to come to work.”

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