Local favorite O’Rourke’s Diner will soon be featured on Food Network’s nationally televised program, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” The television crew filmed Oct. 8 and 11 for an episode that will air in three to six months.
The Food Network contacted O’Rourke’s Diner after receiving numerous e-mails from loyal fans of the diner. The 10-minute segment will feature the diner’s steamed cheeseburger, banana bread French toast and special hash called “smoked up,” which is a mix of potatoes, corn, green beans, corned beef and quinoa.
“This is truly an accolade because it’s a pretty good sized segment,” said owner and head cook Brian O’Rourke.
He was also happy that the segment would potentially bring in new business.
“It will expose us to new people,” O’Rourke said. “We have a very loyal following, but there’s always room for more.”
O’Rourke’s Diner is a local landmark frequented by both students and Middletown residents, and has received awards and glowing reviews from numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Connecticut Magazine (2005 Best Diner), Fodor’s and the Zagat Guide.
The diner reopened on Feb. 11, 2008 after a fire on Aug. 31, 2006 forced it to undergo renovations. The closing left many students who were eager to eat at the well-known diner waiting for nearly two years.
“I grew up in Connecticut and so I knew about [O’Rourke’s Diner],” said Jeff Hardin ’11. “Then right before my classes, when I came in as a freshman, it was shut down because of the fire, so it’s really exciting to have it back now.”
Since re-opening, many students have been able to again enjoy the diner’s variety of dishes.
“It’s really tasty,” said Ceci Lynn-Jacobs ’11. “They have really good crab cakes.”
The television crew filmed 20 hours of footage, including O’Rourke cooking the specialty dishes and talking with the line chefs, in addition to taking still photos of 13 other dishes. The show picked which dishes to focus on after consulting with the staff.
“They took up a lot of room, there was a lot of equipment in here,” said manager Lance Whalen.
The presence of the crew made the small diner hectic for the two long days of filming.
“It’s behind us, a good place to be,” O’Rourke said. “It was an experience.”
After finishing filming in Connecticut, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” will move on to Arizona and California to film other hometown restaurants in the coming weeks.
Many students have fond memories of O’Rourke’s friendly, small town service, and were happy to hear he would be featured on the show.
“O’Rourke is a fabulous chef and a nice guy, and he deserves the Food Network’s accolades,” Hardin said. “If he gets more business from it, it would be great. The first time I went there, when I was waiting in line, he came out and brought homemade desserts to us hungry patrons. It shows the character of O’Rourke’s—that good, friendly community feeling.”