This is a love story.A love story that started with a vision scrawled on the back of a napkin. A love story about a journey on “dirt roads, railroad tracks and asphalt highways that throughout our history, moved Americans from Point A to Point B”*. . . and to the Derailed Diner.
The story began with a girl named Karen and an Arkansas boy named Jim Brown who operated travel centers and other business from the Midwest to the Deep South, including the Oasis Travel Center in Robertsdale, AL where the Derailed Diner is located. According to General Manager Dale Elks, “when Karen’s husband died, her life became derailed, and that’s how our diner got its name.”
The diner got its reputation with a popular cooked-to-order menu featuring comfort food such as chicken fried steak, chicken and dumplings, fresh hand-patted hamburgers, soups made from scratch (including chili – a customer favorite), and infamous desserts.
“The state of Alabama listed our pecan pie cheesecake as one of the Top 100 dishes to eat before you die,” said Dale. “Plus, we’re the only restaurant in the entire state that has made the list of Top Restaurants every year ever since Alabama began its “Year of Food” ratings five years ago. On top of that, MSN News has twice listed the diner as the most unique restaurant in the state of Alabama.”
The diner’s infamous pecan pie cheesecake.
With seating for 165, the diner daily serves approximately 100-125 truckers and 500-600 regular diners with a full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu, plus daily specials.
Good eating notwithstanding, the diner also hosts special programs such as its annual Polar Express.
“It’s free to all kids who show up in their pajamas, then we show parts of the movie and actors act out parts of it. Each kid gets a Santa sleigh bell, free hot chocolate and cookies and a balloon candy cane.”
The Derailed Diner’s annual Polar Express celebration.
Other special occasions include special Valentine, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
NATSO (formerly called the National Association of Truck Stop Operators) recently reviewed the Oasis Travel Center and the Derailed Diner and called it a “unique, memorable destination that is sure to make you smile.”
Making Dale smile (in addition to satisfied customers) is the possibility that “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” with Food Network host Guy Fieri, will feature the diner in March. “We sent him four recipes, including our homemade chili and pecan pie cheesecake. We hope he won’t feature the cheesecake because it’s a secret recipe. We want to honor its top-secret reputation.”
Chicken-fried steak from the Derailed Diner menu.
*From “Our Story Poster” at the Oasis Travel Center/Derailed Diner