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Blast from the past
Couple takes diners back to 50s at eatery
Celeste Garrett is only 31, but she loves the 1950s.
The high energy, vocal half of the recently opened Mom and Pop’s Lunch Box Diner is banking others do too. She and her husband, Darin, have seen a steady stream of people come through the doors of the 50s-themed restaurant since its grand opening on April 30.
“We just wanted to take it old school,” Celeste said of the eatery at 22388 W. Olive Ave., next to Joe’s Westside Market. “It makes us feel good to see people come in and have a good time.”
Visitors’ faces light up when they are seated at the James Dean or Marilyn Monroe booths by a waitress wearing a black or pink poodle skirt, white blouse and oxfords.
“When ‘Twist and Shout’ plays on the jukebox the waitresses stop what they are doing and start doing the Twist,” Celeste said. “Everyone has so much fun.”
Many diners have expressed having a case of deja vu. In the late 1980s, the location was home to Rick and Steve’s 50s Diner. After its closing, the space was home to several restaurants, most recently a Mexican food establishment.
“We hear that all the time. I feel like I knew Rick and Steve,” Celeste said. “I’d love to meet them.”
Once seated, patrons are presented with a menu that features an old-fashioned jukebox with black and white checkerboard pattern in the background. All of the diner classics are on the Breakfast and the Lunch/Dinner menus, each item harkening back to the theme — the Big Bopper breakfast, the Buddy Holly bacon burger and Mr. Limpett’s fish and chips, just to name a few. Take-out and delivery are also available.
The staff of 14 includes the couple’s two teenage children, who man the ice cream bar after school.
Nearly everything on the menu is made from scratch by head chef Adrian Sotelo and local product Jason Duggan. Sotelo attended culinary school and has 20 years of experience in the food industry. The menu boasts “All burgers made with all beef and hand pattied.”
For dinner Mom, aka Celeste, breaks out her private recipe box and whips up a special. Each night it will be something different, “Whatever Mom feels like cooking or having for dinner,” Celeste said. This past Tuesday, she was in a taco mood.
“Tacos are always good. One day will have spaghetti and meatballs. I make my own sauce and meatballs,” Celeste said. “Where else in Porterville can you get food like your mom makes.”
The Garretts are not strangers to running a business. Celeste’s father is a longtime restaurant owner and Darin has Jake’s Roofing, a profitable commercial roofing company based in Porterville.
The couple, with seven children from previous marriages, has always wanted to open a family-friendly eatery.
“Darin came home on Valentine’s Day and handed me the keys,” Celeste said. “So, we went to work and here we are.”
Going with the 50s theme was a no-brainer as Celeste is an avid antique collector. She pulled much of the decor straight from her collection.
“I think the lord must have knew what we were going to do before we did,” Celeste said. “We started putting stuff up and it fit like a glove.
“It’s definitely a mom and pops place.”
The Lunch Box Diner is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For more information, call 783-1122.