“I have a magical vision in my head of live music or music playing from juke boxes, with the windows open and the late summer breeze blowing in, and laughter. I just can’t wait to sit there and hear those sounds.” Leentje Klingensmith, the Marketing Director for the newly restored Oakley Diner, shares her vision for how the fresh space is going to feel. The historical Oakley Diner, formerly known as the Road Island Diner, has resided in Oakley, UT since 2007. Recently, the diner closed its doors in 2020 and went up for sale.
When Steve and Jana Smith purchased the property, they had a big vision for its future. The couple wanted it to be a gathering place for locals and tourists alike. Steve was born and raised in Kamas. After various adventures outside of Summit County, Steve returned to this area that holds a special place in his heart; calling it home once more. The Smiths put together an incredible team of people, and began renovations and plans for a new, fun community hub.
One of the key players on their team is Chef Eric May. Eric has overhauled the menu and helped with hiring a new staff. Leentje shares, “Eric’s […] been involved in the culinary scene here in Utah […] well over a decade. He has worked at the Blue Boar Inn for years and years, as well as Sundance, […] he has passion for the culinary arts, and has the same vision that Steve and Jana have.” Eric wants to offer classic diner food — but have it taste better than you can imagine — and has been instrumental in taking a vision and bringing it to life.
Guests at the Oakley Diner can expect delicious traditional breakfast fare served from 7:00 – 11:30 a.m. daily. There are plenty of ways to please your palate with options like Cowboy Benedict, Cinnamon Swirl Brioche French Toast, or the Breakfast Burrito. Lunch and dinner options are served until 9 p.m. and include salads, burgers, and sandwiches, as well as some pasta options. And not to worry — they haven’t forgotten to satisfy your sweet tooth: pie, cake, sundaes, and of course traditional and specialty milkshakes are all menu offerings. The menu also includes gluten-free options and a kids menu to please younger eaters.
Leentje says, “We’re so excited to be offering all of the diner classics that everybody loves, but also some more elevated options as well [like avocado toast], just to mix it up a little bit.” Leentje describes herself as a ‘breakfast-all-day-kind-of-gal’ so she’s excited that a few breakfast items, like waffles, will be served all day. She goes on to say, “But what I’m really excited for is the burgers and the shakes.” Leentje describes the burgers — two smashed burger patties piled on a housemade potato bun. Many of the bread items that will be served will be made in the Oakley Bakery which resides on the lower floor of the building. Lita May, wife to Eric, is heading up the bakery and has also been involved with hiring and rallying the team. The bakery will have pastries and other goodies. You’ll be able to grab a classic donut or something a bit fancier like the blueberry pancake donut with specialty toppings. The lower level of the building will also be home to a FiiZ Drinks and Oakley Roasting Company. There will be space inside to sit down and enjoy freshly brewed coffee or you can grab it and go at the drive-thru. “It’ll be fun to have those things right there in Oakley,” Leentje expresses.
Renovating the diner hasn’t come without some challenges. The diner was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places in August of 2009. As a historical landmark, the project team has taken great care to preserve it. Leentje shares one obstacle they were mindful of: “Trying to make sure that we did justice to the history of the diner, and that we were keeping that in mind, and really capturing that essence of what it was like in its heyday back in Rhode Island.” The heavy and long winter has also caused some setbacks with construction. Leentje laughs as she says, “It’s kind of one of those things; like if you wash your car, you’re almost guaranteed it’s going to rain. If you start renovating a diner up in Oakley, you’re almost guaranteed you’re going to have a heck of a winter I guess.” With construction delays, they’ve had to push back the opening date a couple of times. The team has persevered through the disappointment knowing that the end result is going to be worth the wait. “It’s important to us that we really knock it out of the park. We want to make sure that people have a phenomenal experience when they walk through those doors,” Leentje shares.
Many people in the valley have experienced the diner in its former days. So, what changes can be expected? Patrons can get excited for a new menu complete with classic favorites. An expansion off of the back of the diner allows for far more seating. There will be outdoor seating as well. While sticking with its classic styling, the diner will also sport a new look. Leentje explains, “As cliché as it sounds, I think people are going to be really blown away when they step into the diner for the first time. It is just spectacular! They have done such a great job of capturing that classic Americana diner feeling. We have the red bar stools and the black and white tile, and it feels like stepping back in time without being cheesy. […] I think that experience and that nostalgia is just going to really blow people away.”
As Leentje has been involved heavily in preparations for the grand opening, she has had lots of conversations with people who cannot wait for those doors to open again. She knows of families who have made the diner part of their family tradition as they visit the valley during the summer. Leentje had the pleasure of speaking with a woman who was recently engaged. The woman shared that while she worked as a waitress at the diner, a certain ‘guy’ would come in often to grab a cup of coffee just so he could see her and talk to her. And, they just got engaged! Many more fun memories and moments are sure to be had in this historic yet new space. “It’s just like this little piece of magic that I think can bring the community together. I just really love that!” Leentje says. She continues, “I look forward to having the diner be a big part of the community and participate in things that make the community better and somewhere that people want to come visit; making it better for the locals and everyone in between.”