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Familiarity, homemade fare is focus of longtime Ross diner

| Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Valliant's Diner, a colorful breakfast-and-lunch eatery nestled in the woodsy area along Babcock Boulevard in Ross, reminds the owner of a classic American sitcom: Everyone knows the customers' names.

"When you're in here, it's almost like the 'Cheers' of the diner business," says Gerri Valliant, 54. He is the owner, manager, cook -- you name it, he does it at the family restaurant.

Valliant sees third- and fourth-generation families regularly come to eat at Valliant's Diner, which has served breakfast and lunch for more than four decades. Most of these families live within a five-mile radius.

"We know the fathers, we know the mothers," he says. "We know what they do for a living, and where they live. ... When people come in here, they talk to us.

"If I can get you in here once, chances are, you're going to come in again," Valliant says. "I want to see your kids, and all your kids' kids."

The eatery serves casual, classic, homemade American food. Breakfast favorites include triple-stacked buttermilk pancakes ($3.25), two large blueberry pancakes ($3.75), and French toast with maple syrup ($3.75). Omelets are served with many fillings ($3.75 to $6), along with sides of bacon, sausage or ham ($2.75), home fries ($1.75), and more.

For lunch, burgers ($4.50 to $5.25) are popular, as are the homemade soups ($2.25) and salads ($2 for a side salad, to $6.50 for a grilled chicken salad). Numerous sandwiches fill the menu, including the BLT ($3.75), grilled cheese ($2.25), giant fish sandwich ($3.95) and more. Don't forget the homemade fruit pies ($2 per slice), or the vanilla or chocolate milkshakes ($2.75).

Dining at Valliant's -- a restaurant decked out in bright shades of aqua, pink, yellow and black-and-white checkers -- feels like a day in the 1950s or '60s, at the down-home family diners so popular then. Pop-culture memorabilia -- including an Elvis Presley street sign, a Marilyn Monroe picture, and Betty Boop decorations -- cover the walls surrounding diners.

"I want people to feel like they went back in time -- when life was simpler and money was better," Valliant says.

Customers have donated these collectible items to the restaurant since it opened in 1968. One customer anonymously left several model vintage cars at the restaurant during a period of one year. Valliant still doesn't know who did it, but the cars sit on display in a glass cabinet, next to an old-fashioned jukebox.

By bringing memorabilia for the restaurant, "they feel like it's more their place," Valliant says. He grew up in the house adjacent to the back of the restaurant, and has been working at the diner since he was a kid. All members of the immediate family have, at some point in their lives, worked at the diner, he says.

Pete Valliant -- Gerri Valliant's father, who immigrated from Greece and opened the diner -- still works at the diner practically every day. The elder Valliant, 84, says he can't imagine retiring.

"The more you work it, the more you live it," Pete Valliant says.

Valliant's has won Trib Total Media Readers Choice Gold Awards, including a Best Breakfast award in 2010 and 2011, and a Best Burger award in 2009. The diner has provided the setting for some films, including a scene from the movie "My Bloody Valentine."

Additional Information:

Valliant's Diner

Location: 3418 Babcock Blvd., Ross

Hours: 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays

Details: 412-364-9577 or website

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