On July 27, 1981, the Inn on Coventry
opened amid the chaos of the Coventry Village Street Fair, offering a simple menu of eggs, breakfast meats and $1 pancakes. After 35 years on the corner of Coventry Road and Euclid Heights Boulevard in Cleveland Heights, diner owners Debbie Duirk and Mary Haley are still serving "comfort food at comfortable prices," and have no plans on stopping anytime soon.
To celebrate, the dine-amic duo will be dishing up tasty grub at 1981 prices during a July 27 "Throwback Wednesday" anniversary event. Hungry attendees can arrive for the free coffee and $1 buttermilk pancakes, and stay for raffle prizes including diner gift certificates and an authentic Coca-Cola bike.
"This (anniversary) shows our success and how many great people we've met along the way," says Duirk.
The three-generation, family-friendly neighborhood restaurant was initially founded as the "in place to be" by Duirk and her business partner. Haley's mother, Amy, served as the establishment's first chef, helping cement the Inn's iconic status with her banana orange waffles and other scrumptious goodies until she passed away in 1997.
While the banana orange waffles are no longer available, the Inn's vast menu has nine different versions of Eggs Benedict as well as a variety of spicy selections including huevos rancheros
"We say we're still doing home-style cooking after all these years," Duirk says.
In preparation for the anniversary festivities, the Inn will close from July 11 to July 23, using that time to add new carpeting and a fresh coat of paint. When reopened, the diner will look much the same as it did on that July day over three decades ago, Duirk promises.
The years in between have seen the Heights' very own "breakfast Cheers bar" fill bellies at a fair price. Not all those days have been easy ones, either. Duirk recalls a fire in the district that closed the Inn for several months in the mid-80s. Then there were the street remodelings in the 90s that made it difficult to attract customers. And of course, the loss of Haley's mother a week before her 97th birthday was a blow to the owners and patrons alike.
Despite it all, the Inn has persevered as a Cleveland Heights institution that Duirk looks forward to shepherding along for another 35 years. The diner's success can be ascribed to a few simple yet critically important reasons, its co-owner says.
"Quality, consistency, cleanliness and a hospitable staff that makes you feel like you're home," says Duirk. "That's what people look for when they go out to eat."