Before a Wichita man died last week, he asked his friends and family to gather at Brints Diner after his funeral. About 30 did.
“This was his favorite spot,” said Renee Roat, who owns the restaurant with her mother, Terry Knapp.
Roat and Knapp are hoping more Wichitans have a soft spot for the diner, which has been around for more than 50 years while going through several closures and changes of ownership recently.
Roat and Knapp reopened Brints last month, bringing decades of their own experience in diners to the task. Knapp said she worked as a waitress, cook and manager at Livingston's Diner for 31 years. Roat spent nine years waiting tables for the same place.
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“It's always been my dream,” Knapp said of running her own restaurant.
And now that she is?
“Really, we're doing good for only being a month,” she said.
“It's awesome,” Roat added. “You get to make your own decisions.”
Open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, Brints serves up classic diner dishes such as chicken fried steak, burgers and hot open-faced sandwiches. There are daily specials ranging from tacos on Tuesday to fried chicken on Friday.
“It is pan-fried, not deep-fried,” Knapp says of the latter.
She also bakes the diner's pies, from butterscotch and coconut to black bottom and chocolate peanut butter.
“The chocolate seems to go the best, so I try to keep a couple different kinds of those around,” she said.
Brints, which seats 64 people, is one of the city's few surviving Valentine buildings – metal, mobile diners that Wichita's Valentine Manufacturing cranked out between 1938 and 1971 – and apparently the only one still being used for its original purpose.
It's now tucked behind an auto parts store near the northeast corner of Lincoln and Oliver, which Roat concedes is less than ideal. But she says its longevity and the recognition it gained from being featured on a 2007 episode of the Food Network's “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” mean it's no secret to most Wichitans.
Roat predicted success based on what she learned about customer service from her mother.
“You know their first name, you have them. As soon as they walk in, you know what they want. You spoil them,” she said, looking at Knapp. “Isn't that what you told me?”