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Penny's Diner: 'Just good, wholesome food with a good attitude when we serve'

From the Off the beaten path: Five small-town restaurants to try in the Brazos Valley series
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Penny's Diner

Penny's Diner manager Diane McInnes and employee Shannon Pryor pose for a portrait on Feb. 11, 2021.

The neon sign outside Penny’s Diner in Hearne always says “Open.”

At all hours of the day, Penny’s patrons can order a hearty breakfast, lunch or dinner and homemade desserts.

“We serve all of them 24/7,” said Diane McInnes, Penny’s manager. “There is no breakfast, lunch or dinner period. We serve the entire menu the entire day.”

Penny’s is a small chain of ’50s-style diners with 27 locations nationwide. In 1994, Avantic Lodging Enterprises started to add the diners to their hotels and the company’s president named all of the restaurants after his wife, Penny.

The Penny’s in Hearne, settled on the north side off Texas 6, opened in the late 1990s and is adjacent to a Baymont by Wyndham hotel.

The walls inside Penny’s are covered in ’50s décor: old signs with corny jokes, framed records including Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock. McInnes said the nostalgia is real for patrons who grew up going to diners in the ’50s and ’60s.

“There is a certain ambiance to an old-style diner that kind of harks back to kinder and gentler days in many ways,” McInnes said. “Now granted, we may be looking at it through hazy and fuzzed lenses that take away some of the bad stuff that was going on at the time, but in so many ways it’s just that more wholesome feel that you remember growing up with.”

The menu presents an assortment of options, including meatloaf, chili and a turkey dinner.

Burgers are a popular lunch item, McInnes said, and the bacon lover’s is the top draw, featuring four pieces of bacon and served on a Hawaiian bun. Cook and server Shannon Pryor, who has worked at Penny’s for nine years, said everything at the restaurant is fresh.

“They know we’re cooking it as it’s ordered,” Pryor said. “It’s not sitting in a drawer.”

Breakfast is a hit at Penny’s and the signature item is the skillet breakfast, which is a mixture of vegetables, hash browns and a choice of bacon, sausage or ham topped with eggs and served in a skillet dish. The buttermilk pancakes are sweet and the waffles are made with vanilla malt.

For dessert, Penny’s offerings include banana splits in old-fashioned glass boats and root beer floats.

McInnes noted Penny’s gets an assortment of patrons: locals, truckers, railroaders, plant workers and commuters.

“We do comfort food you won’t find at other places,” McInnes said. “Just good, wholesome food with a good attitude when we serve.”

Details: 1051 N. Market St., Hearne. Open daily, 24 hours.


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