COLUMBIA — The 63 Diner on Missouri 763 reopened Tuesday to dozens of customers, many waiting in line for a chance to taste the restaurant's popular burgers, banana splits and homemade pie.
Yes, the diner is back, and everything is almost exactly the way it was when it closed a year ago.
The same life-size Elvis Presley mannequin welcomes customers at the door. Pictures of singers and actors from the '50s and '60s hang on the walls. The back end of a 1957 red Cadillac is still stuck in the side of the building.
Co-owners Julie Cook and Jay Montgomery have restored the diner to its nostalgic glory after the building and land were auctioned off in April 2008 to pay a $1.23 million debt.
“It looks just the same,” said longtime fan Marilyn Zaring. “It’s just like it never closed."
At the opening, customers cycled through to sit at the pink-and-teal vinyl booths and wait for their orders. They found the same classic American favorites on the menu — loaded cheddar burgers, fried artichoke hearts, cherry cokes and the B-52, a steak sandwich with béarnaise sauce, peppercorns and green onions.
“It’s good home cooking like the stuff you would eat if you went home to mom,” Cook said.
In addition to the original menu, specials are offered on certain days. On opening night, it was country fried steak. Wednesday's special was fried chicken with mashed potatoes and corn.
In keeping with the midcentury style, all of the waitresses wear authentic poodle skirts. Jennifer Baier, who worked at the diner before it closed, said she was glad to get her job back and dress the part.
“Of all of the places I’ve waitressed, this has been the most fun,” she said.
She said she was happy to be serving the same food as well.
“I could probably down one of those pies myself,” Baier said. “Everything is homemade.”
The 63 Diner opened in 1989 and quickly became a Columbia landmark.
After the auction to recover part of the defaulted loan, Cook, a former employee, began to restore the place.
“I was a waitress, hostess and manager,” said Cook, who worked at the diner for 15 years. “I pretty much did everything.”
She tried real estate but decided the diner was really her calling.
“I’ve always had a love for the diner, and when it went in foreclosure, it was our time to go back home,” she said.
Besides a lot of cleaning, Cook and Montgomery said they installed new equipment, roof and tile and restored the neon lights.
Many of the customers considered themselves regulars and expressed appreciation for the revival of the diner.
“I’ve been coming here since I went to Mizzou in ‘92,” said returning customer Scott Jones. “It’s one of the best restaurants around.”
“We’re really glad to be back home,” said Cook.
The 63 Diner, 5801 N. Missouri 763, is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Sample prices are $5 for a burger and fries and $9.50 for a steak.