Written by Brynn Elson
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Local Eatery was the wind chime set over the door, a whimsical replacement for the typical bell that signals a customer’s entrance or exit. The next things that jumped out at me were the checkerboard tile floor and retro bar stools, which made the place feel like an old-school diner. As we waited for our table, my friends and I noticed a stack of the latest issue of The Collegian sitting at the front desk, right next to a large whiteboard with the “quote of the week” written on it.
The Local Eatery has a bright, cheerful atmosphere, but I couldn’t help thinking about the “ghost” of the restaurant that preceded it. Just over two years ago, The Palace — well-known for its enormous breakfast plates and late weekend hours — closed its doors forever, leaving students with giant waffle-sized holes in their hearts. As a result of The Palace’s closing, students had nowhere but their dorms to eat pancakes at 2 a.m. on Friday nights. The Local Eatery moved into The Palace’s old space, and while they’ve made some changes, they might just be able to supply students with the diner fare they’ve been missing.
The restaurant’s black-and-white tile floors and gray booths might make you feel like you’re in a 1950’s movie. Most of the decor fits this grayscale theme, and the owners even painted the patterned ceiling with silver paint to emulate an old-timey tin ceiling. The black-and-white theme is clean and modern. Once your food arrives, however, you’ll start seeing in color again: the sunshiney omelets and fresh berries on our plates were vibrant, fresh, and delicious.
The Local Eatery offers standard diner fare in addition to a few specialty items. Three out of five girls in my party ordered omelets, which says something about the quality of the Eatery’s standard fare: don’t write it off because it’s traditional! Just like their simple color scheme, the Local Eatery’s standard menu items signal a “back to the basics” mentality when it comes to food. In an era full of trendy foods and pretentious fine dining dishes, the Local Eatery is a great reminder of the value of a simple, well-cooked meal.
Some of the more unique items on the menu include the hot dog grilled cheese, chicken and waffles, and rum custard french toast. One of the most impressive offerings, however, is unexpected: the Local Eatery makes a mean cup of diner coffee. Sure, this coffee is no artisan latte, but it’s still great (and for $1.99, you can get a bottomless cup of it — the attentive waitresses are always looking to refill your mug). The owner, Dena Walters, says that they grind the beans right before they start brewing for the freshest cup possible.
One of the most beloved items on the Eatery’s menu is the giant cinnamon roll. It’s the perfect size to split between two or three people. If you’ve had a stressful week or you’re trying to recover from an exam, it might be the perfect size to eat all by yourself. If you check in at the Eatery on Facebook, they’ll give you a coupon for a free cinnamon roll — so now might be the time to make a Facebook account.
The Local Eatery is aptly named: many of their ingredients are locally sourced, and several of their most highly reviewed menu items (the sausage gravy, rum custard, and cinnamon rolls, among others) are made from scratch in-house. Some of their offerings are named with Hillsdale in mind, too: Howell Street Chicken & Waffles, Bacon Street Breakfast Bowl, and Hillsdale’s Hash are just a few of the Local Eatery’s tributes to the town of Hillsdale.
Though The Palace was beloved by many Hillsdale students for its comforting diner food, the Local Eatery deserves a place in students’ hearts too. Both their menu and their atmosphere make them worth a visit. Thanks to their fresh coffee, delicious omelets, and giant cinnamon rolls, the Local Eatery might soon become your go-to.
Brynn Elson, ’23, is a biochemistry major with a decent comprehension of the English language. She enjoys drinking coffee, playing the clarinet, and overcommitting to things. When she’s not studying (which is rare), you might be able to find her running (read: getting lost) on the back roads or complaining about Hillsdale’s lack of mountains.
Published in May 2021