Step inside Troy’s 105 Diner and you’ll instantly be transported back to the 1950s, complete with vinyl seats, a Marilyn Monroe poster and the sound of eggs sizzling in a pan for the breakfast special. A shiny retro mashup of past and present, Troy’s combines old-time diner atmosphere, home-cooked food and friendly staff to make for the ultimate brunch spot.
Sandy Byrum, who co-owns the diner with her husband Troy Byrum, said Troy’s first opened in Boone in 1995 as part of a Starlite Diner kit, a group of restaurants launched in the ‘90s and owned by Modular Diners, Inc. The Byrums said Troy’s was the first of its kind to open at the time. From its neon signs causing a fire in 2014 to becoming an “accidental drive-thru” later that same year, Troy’s has pretty much seen it all.
“We tell everybody we bought it with our eyes wide shut,” Sandy Byrum said. “And that’s very true, we did not realize that this was much more difficult than fine dining.”
Troy and Sandy Byrum are the fourth owners of Troy’s, and have 85 years of restaurant experience combined. They bought the diner in 2005 when Troy Byrum was the chef at Broyhill Inn and Conference Center and Sandy Byrum worked in real estate and the restaurant business. Sandy Byrum said she and Troy Byrum initially envisioned more upscale food and fine dining.
“We realized quickly that that’s not our market here in Boone,” Sandy Byrum said. “Our market was really catering to locals and the college students, and it’s probably very good that we learned that early or we would not have operated. We would have had to close.”
The Byrums know their customers well. Sandy Byrum said they serve over 3,000 guests per week on average. Weekends are usually their busiest times, when lines of customers stretch out the double doors. During the peak months of October through January —when visiting customers are kindly referred to as “tree people” and “winter people”—the staff crack anywhere from 2,800 to 5,400 eggs per week, Sandy Byrum said.
But it’s the locals and college students the Byrums focus on, including those within their staff.
Out of their 16 servers, 13 attend or have attended App State, along with 15 of their 20 kitchen staff; students eat in the diner anywhere from three to seven days a week.
Sandy Byrum said college students are the diner’s “bread and butter,” and she’s thankful to find high-quality staff through the university’s ties to the town.
“Anyone who is anti-college doesn’t understand the economics,” Sandy Byrum said. “It takes a village to run Boone, it really does. It takes a village to run a community like ours, and it really makes it a healthy environment.”
In addition to students, a steady flow of Boone regulars also supports the diner. There’s the group of policemen who come in every Tuesday morning for breakfast and a group of local pastors who come in on Wednesdays to discuss and practice their sermons. Then there was Bob, who would warm up with a cup of coffee every morning as the staff opened the restaurant, and asked one of the servers to marry him before he died last year. Two other regulars, both World War II veterans, are particularly close to Sandy Byrum’s heart; her eyes misted over when she remembered their service.
Sarah Grant, one server, has worked at Troy’s since 1996. She said her regulars keep the diner going during the months when tourism is slow.
“Everyone likes to go where somebody knows your name,” Grant said. “I try to learn their names. If I don’t, I look at their credit card and next time they come in I’m like, ‘Hey Bob!’ and it’ll surprise them because I took the time to learn it.”
Deborah Klein, another server at Troy’s, said she used to do homework in one of the back booths of the diner until the staff offered her a job.
“They said, ‘You’re here so much already, why don’t you just work here?’ so I started nine years ago and haven’t left,” Klein said.
Sandy Byrum said Troy’s menu emphasizes “consistency and best quality diner food.” The bulk of the menu is breakfast, but the diner also offers a large lunch and dinner menu.
Staples include breakfast platters featuring eggs, bacon and sausage; french toast and pancakes; homemade soups and sauces; burgers and meatloaf; and sundaes and milkshakes. It also offers vegetarian options, like their black bean burger or veggie and cheese quesadilla.
Story by Macon Atkinson, A&E Reporter
Photo by Paola Bula, Staff Photographer
Featured Photo caption: Patrons enjoy a variety of classic diner foods Troy’s 105 Diner for dinner on Monday evening.