The Streamliner Diner has been in a rut for most of its 28 years of existence. A tasty rut, most everyone would agree, especially the many longtime regulars of the Winslow Way institution.
Change, however, soon will occur in the form of dinner at the diner.
On Thursday, Nov. 20, owner Christina Briggs will add an evening meal to the breakfast-lunch staple that has served the island well since the original owners – Irene Clark, Liz Matteson, Alexandra Rust and Judith Weinstock – opened for business in 1980.
It’s a move that Briggs, owner for the last 10 years, has gradually gravitated toward since hiring a manager (Ken Rehaume) and having succumbed to the inclination to do something different with an established, thriving business. How different?
By day it will continue to be the same old diner, with a healthy mix of island regulars, tourists and Seattleites who enjoy getting out of the city with a ferry ride and an pleasant repast.
Evenings will offer a different feeling, subtle perhaps, but with more ambience than the often hectic daytime atmosphere.
“We’ll have different lighting, table clothes, candles,” Briggs says. “The lighting is real sweet at night with the windows…real pretty.”
The fare will be “seasonal fresh fun Italian,” is the way Briggs describes it. “It’ll be casual, affordable, comfy food. Bowls of pasta. Locals getting off the boat and dropping by on the way home for dinner and a glass of wine.”
That’s right, the diner will offer beer and wine. Plus, for the first time in 28 years, she says, a customer can actually buy a diner meal with a credit or debit card. Talk about finally joining the 21st century. She laughs.
The diner has been successful practically from the day its front door first swung open. The wholesome, healthy food that was offered in the 1980s hasn’t changed all that much despite there being a few ownership changes over the years.
Locals also come and go, as do visitors, but the establishment’s ideal location, friendly service and consistently delectable grub attracts new diners on a regular basis year in and year out.
“I guess you could say our reputation is wide – mostly by word of mouth,” says Briggs, who started the business with a a silent partner and an operating partner, Michelle Jarreau, who sold her interest about five years ago when she decided to return to her native Scotland. Since then, Briggs has run the business alone.
“I think now it looks better than it’s ever looked before,” she says. “We’ve wanted to build it up a little more. I like what we’ve done with it.
“And the food? It hasn’t changed that much. We still have the masses slamming us in the summer and the regulars coming back in the fall after things calm down. The feeling of the place really hasn’t changed much.”
Briggs, a native of Kennebunkport, Maine, says the restaurant’s lineage of feel-good food is something she has never been inclined to change. The evening meal certainly represents change, but she doesn’t see it as a gamble. It’s not like the diner is suddenly going to start serving hamburgers and fries at lunch and turn into a steakhouse at night.
“I feel good about it being successful,” she says. “I’ve been living here a while and I know the island. And I like living here. I’ve talked to a lot of regulars and friends and they all say it will be a welcome addition. People are going to come, I know that.”
The same cozy, warm environment will greet customers, whenever they come. There are still going to be only 46 seats (34 at tables, 12 at the counter), with 12 more outside during the warmer months.
Briggs hopes to expand soon to the rear of the building, adding about 300 square feet (the diner is now about 1,800) that previously was a photography studio. The space will we be used for storage, an office and prep work, which will be especially welcome with the new hours.
Another reason the added hours feel good is the makeup of the current staff.
“I have a good, professional crew right now,” she said of her 12 employees. “I like the feeling of it now. And having a manager who thinks along the same lines as I do, really helps, too. Ken takes a lot of pressure off me.”
Owning and operating a business for 10 years can be a burnout, but Briggs says she’s still going strong.
“People still like to come here, and so do I,” she says. “Kids still wake up in the morning wanting to have waffles at the diner. There are pros and cons to any business, but it’s still enjoyable for me to come in and cook for our customers. I still like it.”