Lifestyle

Big Apple Diner: Never meant to be 'Elvis-cutesy'

Christopher Carter/staff photo Sunny Rocheleau, left, of Washington, D.C. talks politics with a friend, Mike Brown, of Bremerton, at the Big Apple Diner. - Christopher Carter/staff photo
Christopher Carter/staff photo Sunny Rocheleau, left, of Washington, D.C. talks politics with a friend, Mike Brown, of Bremerton, at the Big Apple Diner.
— image credit: Christopher Carter/staff photo

Atop a stool and looking up from a plate of sausage and a pancake topped with an egg and sausage gravy, Mike Brown recalls a time back in the day.

“It’s kind of like the Happy Days thing when I was a kid,” he said.

Neighbors and old friends stop and say hello to Brown as he finishes his breakfast at the Big Apple Diner — a routine he follows several times a week.

The restaurant, designed to replicate a 1950s-style diner, opened 16 years ago. Since then, it has become a mainstay in the Chico and Kitsap Lake area of Central Kitsap and is popular as ever.

Diner owner Mark Nesby recalled the area before the diner existed, as “kind of like the ‘burbs of downtown Bremerton.”

Near where the diner is now used to be a drive-in theater and other restaurants, including Ralph’s Red Apple Market, which Nesby owned during the 1970s.

Nesby said he wanted to bring comfort food and a non-corporate experience to locals, something they wouldn’t find at a chain restaurant.

Although the diner doesn’t date back two decades, authentic posters from musical productions at East and West High schools from the 1960s and a retro-style bar help take customers back years.

The idea for an era-themed diner was decided in part to jibe with the menu of home-cooked meals and handmade desserts. After all, there are not many places in Kitsap County to grab a Green River Phosphate or a Caramel Coke.

It wasn’t to be cute though, he said. “We didn’t want to make it Elvis-cutesy.”

He said there was an extra effort to make the diner family friendly and to encourage a relaxed atmosphere where neighbors could meet over bacon and eggs — the diner’s top seller.

Ken Wilkinson and his wife Julie Wilkinson brought their 12-year-old grandson Dylan Faulkner to the diner Tuesday morning for breakfast. They, too, are regular customers and have been for years.

“I don’t know what comfort food is, but I come here because I get good, wholesome food,” he said, adding that he has a routine where he visits the diner every Sunday for prime rib. He eats half and takes the other half home for his 13-year-old poodle, Yoshi.

Nesby said business has been steady and the diner has weathered the economy without problems.

The only rough patch, he said, was in the very beginning.

“We broke $800 in dishes in the first month,” he said.

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