Steven Lentini and Ernie Cornelius have been dreaming about opening a diner for years. Now, it’s reality.
“We call it a treehouse,” laughs Ernie. “We built a treehouse as kids, and now it has a restaurant in it.”
Inside the diner on South Main Street, cookbooks line the walls, along with artwork and vinyl and “a bunch of shit from my house,” says Ernie. The space is small and has a friendly neighborhood feel to it. In the back, Ernie cooks food from scratch and with as many local ingredients as possible.
Steven and Ernie joke with each other and exchange ideas as we talk. Steven says one of his most important goals is to make sure the atmosphere of the diner is “genuine.”
At one point, they comment on how a book had accidentally fallen onto a table where a customer had been sitting. “We were like, ‘hey, if you’re lucky enough to get hit with a cookbook, you get free lunch! Congratulations!’ And then we hope to God that we don’t get sued,” jokes Ernie.
It’s this honesty and humor that makes Sunrise Diner feel a little like being at home with your family. Even the menu is straightforward. There are breakfast and lunch classics like pancakes and sandwiches, and the prices are reasonable. For example, two buttermilk pancakes with syrup is only $3.
Ernie, who previously worked at the Blue Door in Cuyahoga Falls, says he’s learned a little bit from each place he’s worked. Steven mainly works in front of the house. Both men are excited to finally own their own business and be in charge of their own menu.
“I’m exhausted, but I’m happy and excited to be as tired as I am,” says Steven. “When you’re working for someone else, it’s more draining. It drains your soul. We’re actually enjoying coming to work for the first time in years.”
Steven is a single dad. His three-year old daughter, Phoebe, comes to work with him in the morning. She likes to help in the kitchen, make coffee and cook her own eggs. Ernie makes her dippy eggs and calls her “a wild child.”
Steven and Ernie are looking forward to adding more menu items in the summer when more fresh and local ingredients are available. There’s also a small stage in Sunrise Diner, and they’re excited to invite musicians to perform after- hours.
If you visit Sunrise Diner, Steven recommends ordering Ernie’s burger, which is made with challah bread. Ernie recommends his homemade jam, which he says has been “super popular.”
Sunrise Diner is open Tuesday-Sunday from 7 am-2 pm. It is located at 1510 South Main Street.
Noor Hindi is The Devil Strip’s Senior Reporter. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.