Dueling Diners

Dueling Diners

This past weekend, I’m sure many of you had the regrettable experience of having to wake up early to enjoy a non-Commons breakfast with eager parents. On Saturday morning, my family settled on Rolly’s Diner, located in Auburn, to fulfill our needs. To be completely honest, I overslept just a tad, and by the time we arrived, it was packed and bustling. The parking lot was almost full and there was even a stray cat—a huge plus in my opinion. 

We walked in and were sweetly ushered to a table nestled in between a woman with a Bates facilities sweatshirt and a group of older friends asking for someone named Ken. Ken turned out to be the head chef working the grill, and he poked his head out from the open kitchen and briefly chatted with his friends. Upon some light eavesdropping, we learned that the Batesie woman to our left was celebrating her husband’s birthday. I took this to be a positive sign! I mean, it was a restaurant worthy of being chosen for the celebratory day after all. At the table, we were greeted by a paper placemat covered in black and white advertisements and maple syrup decanted into a squeeze bottle – ideal for fewer drips. 

Now, finally, on to the food. The orange juice was shockingly good, for a diner, maybe even better than the syrup and water I enjoy each morning in Commons. The two plain crepes I ordered appeared to be a trusted classic made by Memére Blais, according to the menu. This French-inspired name is encouraging, but really she is Rolande “Rolly” Blais, the family’s matriarch and the diner’s namesake. After some more eavesdropping on the regulars on our right, we learned that Rolly recently passed in January of 2022. Rolly’s daughter was their waitress and detailed the various grandchildren and descendants who were working in the restaurant to carry on her beloved memory. The crepes were 65 percent egg and 35 percent batter, but don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my omelet/pancake hybrid. I felt like I was getting a nice springy texture and all my protein for the day! 

My dad ordered the toasty blueberry buttermilk pancakes and enjoyed them. The french toast my younger sibling ordered was a little disappointing and did not have much flavor even with a cinnamon sprinkle. The highlight of the meal, however, was the three-and-a-half-ounce mini jug of real maple syrup that we ordered to round out our breakfast – the best part being that I took it back to my dorm fridge and I have been using it to sweeten my chai in the morning. All in all, it was quite a tasty and satisfying simple breakfast bolstered by quite a bit of history and local love. 

As we drove away we passed a hardware store that advertised an upflush toilet and another homey diner just down the block. So the next morning when we were struck with the same issue of where to go we decided on the Happy Days Diner which was open and looked pretty good! Walking into this restaurant you’ll find more of a Hollywood theme than the array of family portraits and cooking awards that Rolly’s was adorned with. We were sat in the back room at a booth and greeted by very similar placemats, this time printed in an appealing cyan and fuchsia. 

We studied the compact laminated menu and I decided to go with the crepes again in order to appropriately compare the two dueling diners (credit to my father for the title). Others ordered an omelet and an egg with homefries (I know, I know, a disappointing commitment to continuity). The rooms were fairly packed, which we learned through even more eavesdropping because Rolly’s is closed on Sundays. I am happy that we accidentally planned this out right! A large extended family sat down at some pushed-together tables and gleefully ordered many pancakes. The blueberry pancakes at this diner were perhaps a little more Bisquick-y but the blueberry quality was higher. My crepes were much more classic with even brown spotting on a soft, folded canvas. They were exactly one dollar cheaper than the previous day’s version but just as pleasant. Real maple syrup was not advertised and we had wisely brought along our newly acquired mini jug. The home fries were deep-fried and very nice and the toast options were plentiful. 

The bright turquoise walls were fun and who wouldn’t want Elvis posters looking down on them? We spotted some other students and their parents enjoying their familial breakfast but they were primarily populated with locals. Both had kind service and a classic diner menu and feel. So, I don’t have an answer for which to go to, but check either out when you’re in need of something tasty, warm, and nostalgic. Lastly, Happy Days does Doordash so keep that in mind my fellow bobcats.