When hearts are heavy and there are important issues to discuss, Americans have a tradition of congregating at the local diner to work things out over a cup of coffee and a slice (or two) of pie.
Thank heaven Norma’s Café opens Tuesday.
At a practice run Friday for family and friends, owner Ed Murph, who purchased the café from Norma herself 30 years ago, said opening the new store is like test-driving a car.
“You’ve got to see what needs to be tweaked,” Ed joked, moving from table to table, shaking hands and eyeing dishes for imperfections.
“Norma’s was Ed’s childhood favorite restaurant growing up,” shared Marketing Director Katy Anderson, “and he’s built it into what it is today, with, now, four locations.”
Preparing to move into the former Souper Salads space at Park Lane and Central Expressway has been hectic, Anderson said, but it’s helped to know the neighborhood is excited to come in and eat.
“The community outreach and support we have gotten since we announced the new location has been amazing. We’ve been getting lots of messages on social media. The last few months have been especially busy with construction, getting the booths in, getting the pictures made, doing the hiring – it’s a very long process, but it’s our baby and we’re proud of it and we hope the rest of Dallas will come dine with us.”
I asked about Norma’s target market.
“Anybody who’s hungry,” said Anderson looking around. “We serve construction workers, office workers – anyone who wants comfort food. We open at 6 a.m. and serve breakfast all day. Lunch starts at 11.”
Yeah, but can the food possibly taste as delicious here, in a beautiful, clean shop, as it does in the good, old “greasy spoon” Oak Cliff location?
“The food will taste just the same,” laughed Anderson. “We have the same Texas-flag booths, the same shirts, the same pictures on the walls, the same menus and the same recipes since the 1950s. We don’t want to change what’s been working for 60 years.
“Some of our Oak Cliff customers eat 3 meals a day with us, and we hope to develop regulars here, and learn them by name.”
Director of Operations Bill Ziegler compared opening the restaurant to prepping for a wedding.
“Oftentimes, the bride sees everything that’s not exactly right,” he told me. “Like, we don’t have the sign up yet outside – they’re redoing the whole façade – and I’m not sure the air conditioning is cool enough. We were up here last night hanging pictures on walls. But I’m pretty sure it will all come together by Tuesday.”
And a Norma’s newcomer? What’s the first thing they should try?
“Chicken fried steak and coconut cream pie,” said Ziegler. “That’s my favorite.”
Norma’s Café Park Lane officially opens its doors at 6 a.m. Tuesday. The first 100 people in line will receive free chicken fried steak for one year, and they’ll have other raffles and prizes going on throughout July.
Police and first responders always receive a discount at Norma’s.
You can view their menu here.