Charlie Parker’s Diner the award winning local restaurant where visitors become friends
I have known Mike and Cindy Murphy for years. I went to school with Cindy and my husband Keith went to school with Mike. The two own the award winning Charlie Parkers which has been on Dives & Diners and recently won the Hometown Breakfast Battle that pitted 135 chefs from 135 cities across the country against each other. The contest celebrated Thomas’ 135th anniversary and the Murphy’s presented the winning entry which was a breakfast twist on Springfield Illinois’s famous horseshoe with an English muffin as the base of the breakfast shoe. Best of all, the Murphy’s split the winning pot with their employees.
While working on an article about local places to eat during the Illinois State Fair, Jeff Berg from Visit Springfield took me around and Charlie Parkers was high on our list. There we sampled both the award winning breakfast shoe and the giant pancake that literally filled a pizza pan. Both were amazing! Jeff was brave enough to add a bit of the latest addition to Charlie Parkers, their very own hot sauce. In fact, he liked it so well he purchased some to take home and use on his own creations.
Charlie Parker’s Diner was established in 1992. The building is a novelty in itself since the restaurant is in a Quonset hut. They explain on their website about what a Quonset hut is and the history of this specific one. “Between 150,000 to 170,000 Quonset huts were manufactured during World War II. Quonset huts were meant to house people and protect materials at far-flung bases. The building needed to be inexpensive, lightweight, and portable so it could be shipped anywhere and put up quickly using hand tools. A crew of six experienced men could build a hut in a day. After the war, the U.S. military sold the surplus Quonset huts to the public for around $1000 each. We are not sure when the Quonset hut arrived at this location, but it has not always been a restaurant. It was home to Woodside Township Maintenance shed, trucking company, plumbing and heating business and even a bait shop for a short period. We think it’s perfect as a restaurant and are happy to be here.”
Mike and Cindy Murphy, are the fifth owners of the restaurant, the couple purchased Charlie Parker’s Diner January 1, 2009. Over the years Mike said besides their loyal local following that, “We have had people from all 50 states and 93 foreign countries. Those are only the ones that have signed the guest book,” Mike said.
“My favorite stop so far is a visitor from Nepal,” Mike said. “How does someone from there end up here?”
Route 66 is a big draw that brings customers their way along with the Lincoln sites, but he is finding that many come to Springfield to see this eclectic 50’s diner and try out their award winning food. “We do well with tourists, we are a throw back to a 50’s diner. We have been profiled on Diners Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. The episode aired for the first time in March of 2008 and has been shown repeatedly over the years. Since that time, Charlie Parker’s Diner has received many other national and local awards and citations. We were featured in the Chicago Tribune in 2009, WGN’s Skydives, 2010, Wall Street Journal, 2010, Food Network Magazine, Best Breakfasts 2010, Popular Plates Quick Eats magazine, 2011 (Best of the U.S. Top 125 Road Stops). Where the Locals Eat (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014), Talk of the Town (4.5 star rating Excellence in Customer Satisfaction, 2010, 2011, 2012), Talk of the Town (5 star rating Excellence in Customer Satisfaction, 2013). Named as an “Enjoy Illinois Delicious Destination” by the Illinois Department of Tourism. Received the 2016 Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel & Tourism “Best Culinary Focused Marketing Campaign” award.”
“I can’t express what a wonderful partner Mike and Cindy are,” Jeff Berg said.
All of these awards and visits add up to a friendly face whether it be one of the Murphy’s, or the servers that bring great food with a smile in a building that is filled with memorabilia that makes me smile. My grandkids love coming here and getting the Mickey Mouse pancakes and my husband who is a Divernonite like Mike loves to come with others and they make a morning (or afternoon) of it. It is the Divernon version of Cheers.
Having fun in what they do shows in their food and their clientele. Mike said, “I have the most fun creating new omelets. I have a St. Louis one with BBQ sauce, there is a corn beef omelet and I just had a Texas omelet and the Arkansas omelet, of course has chicken in it.”
As far as the giant pancake that Jeff and I only managed a small portion of, Mike said, “If you eat four by yourself it is free.”
This is a big task. “The giant pancake has one and a half pounds a batter,” Mike added.
Besides the visitors from far away Mike said this past few years that the definition of tourist has changed for him. “We have people that end up here everyday, stopping on their way to or from someplace local.”
Whether coming from some place as close as Divernon, or as far away as Nepal, Charlie Parkers is a great local gem. Open for breakfast and lunch, stop by tha try it out! For more information, log on http://www.charlieparkersdiner.com for details.