The Blue Plate Diner’s staff are clad in black shirts, most have tattoos, some look a little rough. But contrary to their appearance, they greet customers like they are visiting their homes. Many of Blue Plate’s staff have been working there for most of their adult lives. “That guy over there and his brother were a couple of punks who started working for me when they were about 15. He just had his first kid, he’s now a responsible family man.”
This is a restaurant full of happy employees and customers. Saturday and Sunday mornings the lines are out the door but nobody is in a hurry. Blue Plate’s specialties include big omelets, pancakes, and a killer homemade pork chili verde. It is one of the few restaurants that can do eggs bendict right. So what’s the secret to their success? Founder John Bouzek and his wife Tamrika Khvtisiashvili have turned over the operations and management of the restaurant to Joe Mendl, who answers the question:
“For one thing we can fix almost anything. We have torn apart nearly every piece of equipment in the kitchen. We used to hire a guy who would charge a fortune to come and fix our computer system, so I took the time to learn the ins and outs of the system and I can fix it anytime it breaks.We ‘ve torn apart the fryer and repaired the thermocoupler. And this same knowledge is applied in fixing the rentals,” Joe said.
About ten years ago John started turning more of the responsibility of the restaurant over to his staff. “Now most of them have more expertise than me.” As John did this he started buying rental properties, and now manages both them and the restaurant. John didn’t want to say exactly how many rentals he owns, but it’s over a few dozen. “There are a lot of people who work here who need housing.” John says he and Joe have worked out a process so they can install a new kitchen for under $3 thousand. But when it comes to the food, corners are never cut. John explains how he will try different ingredients from various providers he always chooses the vendor offering the highest quality and best taste, whether its cheese, pork or produce.
Blue Plate has been around long enough it’s now an institution. The corner of 21st and 21st is defined by Blue Plate, and due to its proximity to Sugar House Park and near so many homes, many people will simply park a long distance or walk to the restaurant. But the area will soon see a huge development project surrounding the entire restaurant. Two former Chinese restaurants were purchased and new retail and possibly housing will be constructed there soon.
Stay tuned for further developments.