Popular diner owner hangs up apron after 25 years

6/14/2013 7:30 AM
By Associated Press

HENDRICKSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — If you need cream for your coffee at Rose's Diner, it's in a metal pitcher in the old white refrigerator by the cash register. Just help yourself.

And breakfast regulars know that owner and cook Rose Bastin will be cracking their eggs for the grill when they step onto the porch from the gravel parking lot. "Everybody understands that if you want something different from your usual, you better tell me when you come through the door," Bastin told The Herald-Times (http://bit.ly/10hZyQR ).

Thursday morning, with six eggs frying over-easy and two sausage patties the size of quarter-pound hamburgers sizzling, she took a cleaver to two slices of buttered toast.

It was the 66-year-old tell-it-like-it-is country cook's last week in the diner's galley kitchen. Her last week to drive her truck down Ind. 43 at 4:30 a.m. to open up the restaurant and put on the coffee pot; the biscuits go in the oven at 5:20.

Bastin will be there a few hours on Saturday, when she will slip out the back door as she hands the diner over to a Solsberry couple. Shelly Furr, a waitress and cook at Rose's for the past year, will wait tables. Her husband, Ed Furr, will man the grill. "He's a pretty good cook," Bastin said.

Early Thursday, Bastin was both cook and waitress; she mostly knows what customers want, or they tell her over the low wall that separates kitchen from dining room. Regular Jim Raines went behind the counter to pour his own coffee, and to fill glasses with ice and water for a table of three. There were six pickup trucks and one old silver Lincoln Town Car parked outside; about half of the tables were occupied.

Raines wore a gray T-shirt with a message: "Rose's Diner, Home of the Famous Too High Pie." He orders grits and scrambled eggs about every day for breakfast, "but once in a while he will eat fried potatoes," Bastin said.

A quarter-century ago, Bastin moved from the Greene County Inn restaurant to this one she established closer to home, about 10 miles west of Bloomington on Ind. 43. She figured she would have a small home-cooking restaurant open four days a week.

But word got out, and customers flocked to Rose's Diner, located about 10 miles from Solsberry in what city people would call "the middle of nowhere." ''I don't know what happened," she said, remembering switching to seven days a week early on.

Hendricksville has a volunteer fire station, a community center and the diner. Locals come for meals regularly, and out-of-towners often find the place. The lattice tops on the pies are not perfectly aligned, and chicken breasts, legs and thighs are cooked the way Bastin's Aunt Lucille taught her: dredged in flour, then plopped into a deep skillet with vegetable oil on high heat, then simmered slowly on low heat until it's brown and crispy.

There's nothing fancy about Bastin's cooking; the flaky pie crust consists of flour, salt, shortening and water. Pie is $1.75 per slice; the offerings Thursday were peach, apple, rhubarb, chocolate and pecan. Bastin makes pies, usually six, throughout the morning between breakfast orders. She fries the chicken up the same way, next to a gallon pot of homemade sausage gravy. She always runs out of gravy.

The dishes and coffee mugs are mismatched, purchased from Goodwill.

Bob Knight discovered the diner when it first opened and was serving three meals a day. Bastin would close down for the night to host team dinners for 30 to 40. "We would cook up everything we had. And they always, always appreciated the pie." Knight prefers peach or cherry, "but he would eat any kind." He visited last fall.

Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels discovered Bastin's rural diner when he first campaigned for office. He made many stops there during his eight-year tenure, to meet with constituents and to have lunch. He likes butterscotch pie, and never ordered fried potatoes with his beans, as many Hoosiers do.

Until a year ago, there was no cellphone service at the diner, which did nothing to hinder business. "I actually think people kind of liked it, that they could get away," she said.

Bastin won't miss the zero-degree mornings coming to work before dawn. And she will be seeing her customers: "We'll come down and join the regulars for breakfast once in a while," she said.


Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com

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