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Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson serves up the best info and tips on Northwest food, cooking, dining and restaurants.

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March 26, 2008 12:35 PM

Andy -- of Diner fame, weighs in

Posted by Nancy Leson

After writing about the hoped-for resurrection of Andy's Diner yesterday, I got a call from Andy Yurkanin, who just might be the nicest restaurateur I've ever had the pleasure of conversing with. He told me that yes indeed, he was excited about the potential for his old diner's return to life, and said he was going to talk to "a couple of guys" today who are interested in leasing the place. Yes, of course I asked him who the guys were, but he pleaded the Fifth -- though he did mention that they were in the restaurant business. (Thinking, thinking, thinking. . .) And then it hit me:

Could it be Peter Levy and Jeremy Hardy? The owners of Chow Foods restaurants would be the perfect guys to revive Andy's and turn it into the destination diner it once was.

I wasted little time getting Jeremy on the phone. Nope. He's not my man, he said, though he did get a call from somebody who felt as I did: that the Chow Foods guys and Andy's Diner were a match made in heaven. Before we hung up I tried to convince Jeremy to throw his hat in the ring. He said he'd at least think about it. (Peter? Am I crazy?) He'd better think fast. Interest on the space is high.

So: what do you think? In your fantasy-restaurant life, who would do justice to the legend of Andy's Diner? And don't tell me chef Scotty Simpson, because he's already got himself a new gig.

Anyway, here's a little slice of the diner's history from Andy himself, who promised he'd treat me to lunch at his old diner when it reopens -- "And I'm sure it will," says he.

Andy Yurkanin began working at his uncle Andy's diner in 1955 and took over as operator in 1959, running the place till about 12 years ago when he turned the restaurant and bar over to his son T.J. His son didn't love the restaurant business ("He said it was too many hours") and after four or five years under his operation, says Andy, "I sold the place to Bill Howard and his partners." Howard shuttered Andy's Diner in January. Several weeks ago, developer Henry Liebman took possession of the property -- and the landmark railcar restaurant that sits on it. Then he got busy looking for an operator.

Andy celebrates his 76th birthday next month, and says he's enjoying his retirement big time -- golfing, fishing, hunting and traveling. But spend time in conversation with the man, and he'll prove he's still got restaurateuring in his blood. "I was in the business for 40-some years. I worked every day, 12, 14 hours," he says. "I was the greeter, the hands-on operator, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I bet I knew half the customers by name -- they'd come in for lunch four or five times a week!"

With 18 waitresses on staff, he served between 1100 and 1200 customers daily at lunch. "Those were the days when Boeing was going real big." Back in the '50s, '60s and '70s, he says, competition for dining dollars wasn't as steep as it is today. He's still proud of his steadfast employees. "We didn't turn our staff over at all. I had cooks and waitresses who worked there for 25 years."

And as I write this, he's having lunch with one of them.

"Millie Petersen worked for me from the time she was 21 years old, now she's 62 or 63," Andy says. "We're having lunch because I'm going to introduce her to the guys who are interested in [re]opening the place. She wants to go back and work there."

Well, from one old waitress to another, I wish Millie the best, and when Andy's reopens and I'm sitting in a railcar dipping my steak in barbecue sauce and forking into a blue cheese salad garnished with crumbled Cheez-Its, I'm hoping it will be Millie who served it to me.

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Posted by Reid

12:51 PM, Mar 26, 2008

I have very fond memories of going to Andy's as a kid for boy’s night out with my dad. (I loved the RR sign drink stirrers they used to give you.) Anyway, it would be wonderful to see it return...

Posted by Kathy

2:16 PM, Mar 26, 2008

Brava! So glad you,too, have a fondness for Andy's. My dad used to play gin rummy with Andy in the late afternoons before the dinner crowd would arrive- he had been out on sales calls at Boeing and didn't want to go back to the office where he might get stuck with some task or other. So, he went to Andy's instead. He had his favorite table in the bar and Millie was always there, with her smile and good cheer.

Ask Andy to tell you about the annual wild game dinner he used to organize - and about the tuxes he and a couple of guys had made of camouflage - just for the dinner.

Posted by Lydia

2:20 PM, Mar 26, 2008

I would be a regular patron if the Chow guys took it on. The only other group with the appropriate sense of whimsy and history would be McMenamins.

Posted by Jim

2:41 PM, Mar 26, 2008

Please find a way to make it accessible to folks with mobility issues.

Posted by Nancy V. Bryant

5:24 PM, Mar 26, 2008

Nancy, it's delightful to see you online - (you're still a "babe"). The foodies who have followed you for many years will enjoy you online also.

And having access to the "inside info" makes you that much more appealing.

My family loved Andy's prime steak.
Nancy B

Posted by Joyce

9:46 PM, Mar 26, 2008

I was so glad to see your photo. You are even better looking than I imagined! It will be a treat to catch up with you here. Thanks for all the wonderful hours reading you!

p.s. I would go back to Andy's in a minute. I wish I felt as confident as you sound that it will open again.

Posted by Ron Stout

11:56 PM, Mar 26, 2008

I ate at all three of Andy's diners because his waitresses picketed his place telling the public what a great guy he was,
I was brokenhearted when the Tukwila diner closed because those Zephyr cars reminded me of the days I spent eating in trains dining cars.I also ate with a gfroup in the car ob Fourth reputed to be president Roosevelts private car.
All had great food ,terrific waitresses,and big drinks.

Posted by foop

5:42 PM, Mar 27, 2008

Actually, I don't think the Chow Foods folks would be a good fit. They'd try to turn Andy's Diner into some yuppie "hip" place, with hugely expensive menus, really weird ingredient combinations, and ruin a perfectly good diner menu. As in, you wouldn't be able to get *plain* simple good food - any simple dish would have to have *something* done to it to give it their "signature" - steak fries would have cumin on them, baked potatoes would be sweet potatoes only and only with salmon mousse on them, ground round would turn out to be some sort of beefalo only available from Greenland or something and cost 20 bucks per patty. With, of course, bleu cheese crumbles. Ew.

Ditto for it being a Tom Douglas outpost - three times the price, half the food, four times the "wtf?" factor.

I wish Jak's would take on the job and give it new, but history-honoring, life and therefore have a south-end presence. Or Ruth's Chris. Or The Met. Or build on a stage area and turn it into a great jazz/steak place - Jazz Alley, make a Jazz Train spot! Jazz Bones, open up a branch in Seattle!

Or some microbreweries taking it over, keeping it historical but freshening it up with some lovely new microbrewpub food - Pyramid. Hale's Ales. Snoqualmie Falls Brewery.

Oh, SO many other possibilities, other than the wacko weirdo foodies in town who wouldn't know what to do with a good ground round.

Posted by Bill & Carol

3:13 PM, Apr 03, 2008

We were so happy to hear that Andy's may be opening again soon. We have been going to Andy's since 1962 and still loved the Prime Steak. Of late we had been meeting friends every Thurs night and always enjoyed seeing the previous owner Andy -he is such a class act !!

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