There's always something tasty at Gray's Sandwich Shop in Galesburg.
"They've got good food and good sandwiches," said customer Gary Clevenger.
"It's definitely like an old-school cafe," said owner Keith Gray.
Each day, Gray offers hands-on experience at the 1160 W. Main Street location.
"We don't keep anything hot and ready to go before it's ordered," he said. "They order it, and we make it."
"It's small town," said customer Wes Kent. "It's a lot better than fast food."
Gray makes the signature tenderloins daily. He dips them the old-fashioned way and cooks them to perfection.
"It's made from fresh and fried right from the time it's made," Gray said.
"They're unique here," added customer Fred Rubison.
First opening 30 years ago, this family-owned business became a real hidden gem in Galesburg.
"A lot of people don't even know it's here," said customer Larry Erwin. "They've got good food here."
Keith started running the place in 2010. These days, his son, Justin, and daughter-in-law Angie join in with the cooking.
"We get to moving along pretty good," said Justin. "And being in a small building like this, It fills up pretty quickly."
"It really keeps the family moving," added Keith.
Customers pack Gray's by 11:30 on a weekday. There's space for 27 diners, and it fills up fast. Take out orders account for about half the sales.
"It's nice to see a smaller business stay open and keep going," said Kent.
This is a friendly neighborhood diner that caters to the Galesburg workforce. With big portions at reasonable prices, what's not to like?
Some customers even come six days a week for breakfast and lunch. Gray's Sandwich Shop is open Monday through Saturday from 7 until 2. Make phone orders at (309)342-6615.
"It's always really friendly in here," said customer Dottie Clevenger. "We always come in and chit-chat with about everybody."
Lunch rush is like a well-choreographed ballet. Staffers make the most of tight spaces. The newly-remodeled kitchen is where it all happens.
"It's the best place in town," Rubison said.
At Gray's Sandwich Shop, they serve made from scratch favorites with a family flourish. It's just like going home.
Crowd-pleasing burgers are big favorites. Daily specials, like a grilled meal loaf, offer tempting choices.
"It's like my mom used to do as kids," Keith said. "She didn't want to heat the kitchen up."
It's taking tradition into the future.
"We get a lot of repeat business," Justin said. "A lot of regular customers. They seem to love it."
"It's nice to see smaller businesses stay open and keep going," said Kent.
From its roots as a gas station to becoming a diner in 1959, this building is all about the experience.
"I hope they're hungry because we serve up a lot of food," Justin said.
"It's just a great place to eat," Clevenger concluded.