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  • Sour cream apple pie at Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville.

  • Breaded tenderloin at Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville.

  • Retro tables add to the cool 50's vibe at Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville.

  • Patty melt at Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville.

  • An old-fashioned chocolate milkshake at Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville.

  • Coney cheese fries at Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville.

  • A slice of freshly baked bread at Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville.

  • The pie board is the first thing one should check when dining at Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville.

  • The cheese on top of the French onion soup was not melted all the way at Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville.

  • The patty melt at Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville was burned so badly is was pretty much inedible.

  • The fired fish at Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville is always good.

  • Neapolitan cake at Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville.

  • Cobb salad at Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville.

  • Broccoli soup at Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville.

  • Four-cheese melt at Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville.

  • The pork burger at Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville.

  • Tomato bisque at Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville.

  • Dark chocolate-peanut butter pie at Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville.

Saturday, March 25, 2017 10:02 pm

Old standbys, pies still shine under new owner

Ryan DuVall | Restaurant critic

It had become a favorite of mine over the years.

If you have ever been to Olde Towne Diner in Leo-Cedarville for the fried fish or had a slice of pie, you would know why.

Founders Dan Kneubuhler and Peg Funk had quite a following at their ’50s-themed restaurant that oozed small-town charm. So when I heard a new owner was in charge, I went back anxious – and a little fearful – of what I would find.

Brian Kieffer is the new owner – you may know him as owner of the Bon Bon’s coffee shops – and he says he got all of the recipes handed over when he took the keys.

The dry-erase board still had plenty of pie, so that eased my mind. Those pies aren’t made by Funk, however. They are the responsibility of Nicole Gable, who is Kieffer’s chef, and she does make a pretty mean pie.

Olde Towne usually has around 10 available and they range from the old standbys to the unique. One that was unique to me was the sour cream apple.

This custard-based creation with cooked and sweetened apples had a thick layer of crunchy, candied cinnamon and/or brown sugar on top. The topping was much harder than a normal crumble, but that was not a fault. It rounded out the rather flavorless custard and apple nicely. It was a sugar bomb that was almost too rich for me to finish … almost.

The dark chocolate-peanut butter pie was more familiar and I finished every bite of it, too. Its dark custard base was very thick and had the perfect balance of bittersweet chocolate and peanut buttery goodness.

The only dessert that didn’t hold a candle to the ones Funk used to make was the cake. The tri-level, Neapolitan Cake had layers of chocolate, white and strawberry and a tasty white icing. The flavors were right, but the cake was way too dry.

Some other old favorites still held true:

• The breaded tenderloin is still a winner. It is a big one with a coarse breading. Though not as crisp as some of my favorites, it still never disappoints.

• The fried pollack also always satisfies. It is lightly breaded so the moist, flaky fish is the star.

• The milkshakes are old-school gems. Served in a fountain glass with the remnants – which nearly fill the glass again – brought to the table in the stainless-steel mixing cup, they are always to the perfect thickness.

• Ask for some homemade bread if it isn’t offered. It was still soft, warm, had a distinctly yeasty flavor and was awesome.

• The cream of broccoli soup is one of the best I’ve had, and I am not a big fan of broccoli soups. It is not loaded with cheese like most – it has none – and the broccoli is the star.

The other soups had mixed results. The tomato bisque is a menu staple that I had never had before because I always opted for the broccoli or one of the daily offerings. I won’t make the same mistake again. It had a subtle sweetness and was not overly creamy. What made it was the unique addition of cottage cheese. The little curds melt a little and emulated fresh mozzarella.

The French onion daily choice was foiled by its cheese. The broth, though cloudy, had a decent flavor and plenty of onions, but it was topped with a processed white cheese that didn’t have any flavor. That cheese also was not even melted, much less browned.

The Four-Cheese Melt sandwich was definitely melted. This sort of greasy – in a good way – grilled sandwich on well-buttered sourdough had American, Swiss, cheddar and mozzarella jammed in it and all formed a delicious lava that oozed out. Pair it with that tomato bisque and thank me later.

Aside from those soups, there is little to pick from in terms of appetizers. There are straight-from-the-freezer-bag cheese sticks, fried mushrooms and the like, but none of them are worth messing around with. One offering did stand out, however.

The Coney Cheese Fries were made with shoestring fries and were loaded with the restaurant’s sauce and cheddar. Those fries had no chance of staying crisp, but that was OK. The sauce was pretty timid in flavor but had sort of a tangy hint of spiciness that reminds me a bit of Cincinnati-style chili. The cheese on top was nicely melted and this starter was hard to stop nibbling on.

There were some fails from this new Olde Towne Diner team.

The worst of them was my patty melt. I asked to have it as a double with two 4-ounce patties but received only one. And that one was burnt until black. The buttery light rye was crunchy, the onions were sautéed in butter for added flavor and the Swiss was melted and gooey. But two-thirds of it was simply inedible.

The Cobb Salad had the opposite issue as its chicken breast was ice cold and dry as a bone. Some time on a griddle would have helped it a lot but still not made it worth ordering. It had decent bacon bits, a little shredded cheese, a few tomatoes and a boiled egg, but that was not enough to outweigh the bad chicken and its pale, lifeless iceberg lettuce.

The pork burger had two problems. It was overcooked and very dry in the middle, and I asked for mine sans mayonnaise, but it came with a thick layer on the bun.

Those mishaps won’t keep me away from Olde Towne Diner, however. I’ll just have to stick to the old standbys that have always satisfied. Did I mention they have, like, 10 pies every day?

Restaurant: Olde Towne Diner

Address: 14515 Leo Road, Leo-Cedarville

Phone: 260-627-2395

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: None

Smoking status: None

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Coney cheese fries ($4.89), tenderloin ($5.89), fish ($7.49 for two-piece; $8.79 three-piece), pork burger ($3.99), patty melt ($4.99), cobb salad ($9.49), soup ($2.89 cup; $3.69 bowl), shakes ($3.89), pie ($3.25)

Rating breakdown: Food: *1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.