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Anything but ‘the usual’

Local man’s book examines 48 local diners and their culture

John Behiri, owner of Johnny B’s Glenmont Diner, stands behind the counter of his silver 1960s eatery. The diner is featured in Mike Engle’s new book “Diners of the Capital District,” along with about 47 other local establishments in the greater Capital District area.

John Behiri, owner of Johnny B’s Glenmont Diner, stands behind the counter of his silver 1960s eatery. The diner is featured in Mike Engle’s new book “Diners of the Capital District,” along with about 47 other local establishments in the greater Capital District area. Photo by Marcy Velte.

— “It’s actually featured on the cover of the book, that’s how much I like it,” he said.

Originally the home of the first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in Illinois, Tom and Sally Ketchum moved the Chuck Wagon to Princetown after a “failed rebirth” in Michigan. They then restored and refurbished the diner before it was opened in 2010.

“The Chuck Wagon not only has some great history… but the diner still has good food and a friendly atmosphere,” wrote Engle in the book. “The Ketchums tried to mix the classics with some of the food people are accustomed to today.”

Engle has also learned diner etiquette and tips while researching, like always being nice to your waitress. “Also order the special, it’s usually the best thing on the menu,” he said.

Engle will host a discussion about Capital District diners at the Bethlehem Public Library on Monday, May 7, at 7 p.m. He said the event will mostly focus on the history of diners from the lunch wagon to the modern day diner and he will use local examples.

“I just hope people kind of make eating out a more enjoyable experience,” he said. “It’s about so much more … and I think it’s up to parents to take their children to different places and broaden their horizons.”

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