A trip to Jerry’s Main Lunch, 501 South Main Street in Burlington, is like stepping back in time.
“The first time I walked in here, I was like — wow!” said Jamie Wiseman.
The diner is the last of its kind in Burlington. Even the extinct five-digit phone number on its sign reflects days gone by.
“I’ve been coming ever since they had hamburgers five for a dollar,” said longtime customer Timothy Robinson.
On this day, you’ll find owner Tom Garnyobst slicing ham.
“The restaurant business isn’t 9 to 5,” he said.
His late parents, Jerry and Marge, started the diner back in 1946. Tom’s daughter, Hannah, is the third generation to work here.
“We try to stay true to home cooking, good service and being friendly,” she said.
Her five-year-old nephew, Ian Steward, already pitching in, could represent the fourth generation.
“It’s great,” said customer Jack Atteberry. “That’s what keeps it going.”
The front of the house is a 14-stool set-up. That’s it. Get there early to grab a seat because this is a meal and more.
“It’s just a good feeling to get up and come to work and be with your friends,” Hannah said. “It’s really not like a job. It’s just like play.”
On the other side of the counter, sisters Michelle Stafford and Melissa Ell cook and serve made from scratch favorites.
“You can’t beat the food,” said customer Tim Burgus. “And you can’t beat the price.”
There’s also a lot of conversation to go along with the cooking.
“The girls are pretty friendly,” Hannah said. “But they can give it right back.”
“You can tell by talking to them how great they are to be around,” Atteberry added.
This hidden gem in Burlington really is something special. Regulars have been eating here for decades.
It’s like going home again. Once you get there, you’re ready to stay.
“If you’re having a bad day and come down here, you’re going to leave happy,” Wiseman said.
They get daily specials like chicken and noodles, and there are sizzling favorites off the grill.
“They have something different every day of the week,” Robinson said.
It’s really the place to be in Burlington.
“Everybody comes down here,” Burgus said. “It’s kind of the heartbeat of the town.”
That hard work and determination keeps bringing customers back for more. After nearly 70 years in business, they’ve found the recipe for success.
It’s the best of old school and contemporary. This is a family bond with business.
“They kept the tradition going on,” Robinson said.
There’s a commitment to quality food, friendly service and family. It’s a rare sight these days.
“I would hope that I try to learn as much as I can from my dad and my uncle and keep on keeping on,” Hannah said.
Jerry’s Main Lunch is open from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday through Friday, from 5-3 on Saturday and 5-12 on Sunday. You can phone in take out orders at (319) 752-3750.
“I always think that my parents would look down and approve,” Tom concluded. “They would think that’s a good thing.”
At Jerry’s Main Lunch, a family business that’s surviving and thriving, one generation at a time.