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Hungry Time, the little green and white diner with the dark green striped awnings, is open for business in Lee, on the southeast corner of the only intersection in town with a caution light – or any kind of traffic light at all for that matter. It is the quintessential little American small-town diner with home cooking that includes those perennial favorites, hamburgers, cheeseburgers and hotdogs, with a modern twist – free wi-fi.
New manager Lane Gerth and her father Myron surprised even themselves with their opening on July 2. They had planned to open about mid-July.
However, when they realized the town was holding its Lee Days Celebration the weekend before the Fourth, they moved up the opening date and rushed to get everything ready for the busy Saturday with crowds of people downtown.
There were a few bumps in the road with the change in plans, such as the gas not being hooked up yet to run the grill, but they made do with hotplates and skillets, serving breakfast with eggs, meat, pancakes and home fries, and lunch with burgers and hot dogs to a lot of hungry people. The menu from that day, hand-written in black magic marker on white poster board, is still up on the wall.
Hungry Time now has printed menus with handwritten notations as Lane and her father keep adding things. So far, the big favorites with the customers are the hamburgers and cheeseburgers.
“And they have awesome hot dogs!” said Joan Faglie, who stopped in with her husband Ned for a quick bite.
Independence Day itself was kind of slow, since it was a Monday, and a holiday, and a day known for people firing up their own backyard grills, but the following Sunday, July 10, was their busiest day yet. It was the first time they did their Sunday lunch buffet ($7.97 for all you can eat, including a drink), catching the after-church crowd and folks that, for one reason or another, just don’t like to cook on Sundays. If they bring their church bulletin with them when they come in, they will get a 10 percent discount.
Lane worked as a waitress in such places as Denny’s, learning about the restaurant business from there. Her father, Myron, originally from Minnesota, moved to Florida with his parents when he was 15; he has lived all over Florida since then, but he and his daughter Lane have lived in Jasper since 2001. Myron’s parents had two restaurants, both family-friendly/home-style cooking places, much like Archie’s. They ran one and he ran the other.
Then, he spent several years horseracing with two wheeled carriages. “That was ‘back in the day’ as the kids would say,” says Myron. There are a couple of old framed photographs of him from his horse-racing days that will soon go up on the wall in Hungry Time. Once he retired from horseracing, he worked for a while as a truck driver, and after he retired from truck driving, he and Lane decided to open a restaurant. When Archie’s came up for rent, they liked the location, right in the middle of town, and the building itself, the oldest building in the town of Lee, with bead-board walls in the back dining room.
With the three dining areas together, the place can host up to a hundred people, and they will be using all three areas on a regular basis quite soon. They will soon be starting up all-u-can-eat dinner buffets, with Thursday as prime rib night, Friday as catfish night, and of course the Sunday lunch buffet they already have going. Also, large groups of people will be able to reserve the dining room for their gatherings.
Currently, Lane says, a lot of people run in to grab a menu, and then come later with friends. Sometimes, people stop in “just to see if you’re open” said Lee’s Volunteer Fire Department Chief Reese Thomas, as he traded jokes with Ned Faglie about who looked better dressed as a woman for the Firefighters’ Challenge during the Lee Days Celebration. Faglie had won a dance contest doing the twist.
Before he left, Lane gave him the free beverage all volunteer firefighters receive, (along with a ten percent discount on meals) whenever they come in. Other uniformed service personnel such as EMTs, police officers, sheriff deputies, etc, receive a ten percent discount if they are in uniform.
“The community is really helping up out,” said Lane. They’ve really come together to help us. Everybody is very friendly here.”
Hungry Time is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.