Its a downtown staple, a retro classic and a piece of history.
Cindys Diner, the charming little white building at South Harrison and West Wayne streets, has attained legendary status, joining names like Halls, Coney Island and Zesto as places people first mention when it comes to Fort Wayne food.
Located at Clinton Street and Jefferson Boulevard when it opened in 1952, the building was moved to Clay and Berry streets in 1966. In 1990, it was restored, moved to its current locale and given the Cindys name. And all of that history can be found on the menu.
The most famous dish Cindys is known for is the Garbage, which originated during its time at Clay and Berry when it was called Marges Diner. And it is a breakfast dish of perfection.
Eggs, potatoes, cheese, onions and pieces of ham were scrambled together on the flat-top griddle by Cindys owner John Scheele to create this beautiful mess. All of the ingredients were in the perfect amount; the eggs were fluffy, the potatoes and onions were cooked just enough and the cheese brought it all together. Extra meat is only $1, but I dont know whether I would mess with what is already perfection.
Since 1997, another piece of history has been available at Cindys and it, too, is a thing of beauty. Cindys has the doughnut machine and recipe from the G.C. Murphy downtown and churns out fresh cake doughnuts daily. Topped with a variety of icings, these doughnuts were dense and moist with a rich, almost malty flavor. They were perfect for dipping in a piping hot cup of coffee – one of the finest regular ol cups of Joe I have found in the town – and would be great any time of day, not just breakfast.
The menu at Cindys is pretty simple, which is what one would expect from a greasy spoon.
The bacon cheeseburger was a solid choice. The ground beef – and all of Cindys fresh meats, including the ham for that Garbage – is bought locally from Tim Didier Meats. The patty was seared nicely, was plenty juicy and just made for a fine lunch when ordered deluxe with tomato, lettuce and pickles.
The breaded tenderloin was the one item my waitress said most people dont order, but should. The pork – also from Tim Didier Meats – was really juicy inside its thin layer of breading, which was perfectly seasoned and gave it a little crunch.
And for a real throwback, try the fried bologna and cheese. The meat was thick-cut, nicely charred on the griddle and sandwiched with the gooey cheese between buttered and toasted bread.
The french fries and onion rings were fine choices, but the best sides at Cindys were the homemade soups. The chili was a little sweet with big chunks of ground beef and was topped with diced onions and shredded cheese. The potato was fantastic. It had bits of bacon, diced onions, celery and carrot and had a silky, creamy texture that was pretty much perfect.
The only dish I could find any fault with was the Country Sausage Gravy and Biscuits breakfast. The biscuits were fine, but the brown-colored gravy was a bit too bland. It had flecks of pepper visible and bits of sausage, but needed more sausage or bigger chunks of sausage to add that salty, spicy flavor breakfast sausage provides.
There is nothing I would change about the place, itself.
With only counter seating, be sure to grab a spot on the row closest to the door if you are – how should I say – a more full-figured person. It has all of the old-fashioned quirks like an antique milkshake mixer, which made a couple of great shakes during my visits, vintage Coke glasses that soft drinks were served in and jukebox units along the counter that didnt work but were still fun to flip through.
And the waitresses were jewels, too. They were plenty sassy, but in a natural way that made you feel as if they were old friends. It wasnt forced upon you like it is at some cheesy theme eateries.
The laid-back feel of this place just puts you at ease. You just naturally find yourself striking up a conversation with the person sitting next to you, regardless of race, age or sex. Youll talk about the news of the day, a game last night or you might even find out what the latest gossip floating around downtown is as Scheele and the gals working the counter join the conversation.
And that, along with the Garbage and doughnuts, is what truly makes Cindys Diner such a jewel.
Restaurant: Cindys Diner
Address: 830 S. Harrison St.
Hours: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday
Handicapped accessible: No
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Garbage ($6.35), biscuits and gravy ($4.50), bacon cheeseburger ($4.75), tenderloin ($5.25), milkshake ($2.60), doughnuts (45 cents each; $4.25 dozen)
atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)
Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).