Featured Partner: Bristol 45 Diner

5/24/2014 - Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Staff

Featured Partner, Foodie
Bristol 45 Diner owners in their diner
Order up at Bristol 45 Diner
A couple at Bristol 45 Diner
Bristol Explosion at Bristol 45 Diner
1950s Interior of Bristol 45 Diner

You know you must be doing something right, if the most frequent complaint you hear as a restaurant owner is you serve too much food. Exactly how much food does Bristol 45 Diner serve its customers? Each week, 30 whole turkeys and 300 dozen eggs are consumed, while 57,000 servings of coffee are poured during a year. “It’s just a fascinating business,” Glen Nelson says. Neither he, who grew up on a farm in Bristol, nor his wife Tricia had any restaurant experience before opening the diner in May 2008. Now they are “shaking up your dining experience” with an affordable and family-friendly eatery that has a 1950’s motif. Come in for a milkshake or a meal … or a teaching moment. When kids see all the 45 rpm records hanging on the wall, they are introduced to the concept of records.

Bristol 45 Diner is located on Highway 45, south of Highway 50 in Bristol. The location has housed a restaurant for more than 60 years. The initial plan was for the restaurant to be an investment opportunity, that they’d rent the building to someone else. Instead, they’re the ones operating it (with a food manager who takes care of the kitchen). What started out as a rehab project quickly turned into a complete re-construction job and the first business the couple has ever owned.

The Atmosphere

“Shaking up your dining experience” is the diner’s motto. Tricia explains they didn’t want to just be a place where you go out to eat. “We wanted it to be a complete experience.” When someone walks in the diner, they want that person to feel like it’s the 1950’s and 1960’s again. The tabletops, counter tops, every single item was picked out with that time period in mind.

A family member chose the 1950’s theme, and they fell in love with it, Glen says. They liked the colors, and that it would appeal to all ages. Kids like the vibrant colors, while the older customers like the memories. Add into the mix the great music from the time period, and the diner is a hit with its customers.

Memorabilia fills the restaurant in the form of 400 different photos of celebrities - mainly movie stars - from the 1950’s and 1960’s. The photos came from a collector in Milwaukee, the Internet, Tricia’s mom, and from people in the community who wanted to contribute. The photos are a conversation starter, with even young kids recognizing the stars. For some photos, it takes customers awhile to figure out who is shown. Glen refers to this as a “kind of a neat little game”. Luckily the staff has most of the faces and names memorized (and if not, there’s always the handy smart phone, right?!).

Another conversation starter is the records, and how that aspect of the restaurant’s decorating scheme ties in with the diner’s name. The diner is located on Highway 45, so it was fitting to include “45” in the name. The number “45” is also a reference to 45 rpm records. Given the restaurant’s theme, it was an easy choice to hang the records on the wall (and include one in the diner’s logo). Kids who have never seen records don't understand how only one song is on each side. They wonder how records are played as they’ve never seen record players, and, they basically misunderstand the whole concept of records. The staff explains it all to them.

The Food

When opening a restaurant, a few key things need to be decided. The name and the theme are just two of them. What type of food to cook and serve is also a big one. They wanted simple, basic food that wouldn’t be high priced. Tricia points out they wanted to be a restaurant geared toward families, so they wanted it to be affordable. They have three daughters (ages 25, 18, and 16) themselves and like to go to restaurants where they will be comfortable.

The menu is fairly large, and Glen says this is because they wanted variety and to reach different people. A family of six can come in and order six different items, which pleases everyone. Breakfast is served all day long, with a very large selection of items.

The diner is also known for its wraps and burgers, many turkey items, and gyros. There’s a Friday all-you-can-eat fish fry and baked fish offered. American, Mexican, Italian; fresh salads, hot dogs, club sandwiches, burgers, steaks, ribs, stir fry, seafood, chicken wings, fried chicken buckets to go. You name it, and it’s probably on this place’s menu!

Most everything on the menu is handmade from scratch, including all soups daily, the ranch and blue cheese dressings, spices, sauces, gravies, and hand patty hamburgers. Glen notes you get a good portion at a good price (thus, their biggest complaint that there’s too much food). A kids menu is available. The diner can seat 126 people and the carry out option is very popular.

The Bristol 45 Explosion

The diner’s shakes are very popular, while the large dessert menu also includes the Bristol 45 Sundae, malts, root beer float, banana split, Bristol smoothies, and more! Glen’s favorite dessert is the Bristol 45 Explosion, which Tricia points out is definitely big enough to share. This is a thin crispy pancake/crepe cooked with cinnamon and sugar folded over with strawberries, bananas, and vanilla ice cream inside, topped with whip cream!

(Note: A Bristol 45 Explosion was consumed by the KACVB’s Meridith and Laura in the making of this spotlight article. All in the name of research, of course. Delicious! And we concur, there’s enough for two. Two-and-a-half people even! See our tasty treat being created here.)

Special Events

The diner holds events throughout the year. A car cruise-in is held May through September on the first and third Monday of the month - and the fifth Monday if there are five. This is a free event with a DJ. Elvis impersonator John Van Thiel performs in the diner October through March on select Mondays, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. There is a small cover charge and reservations are needed as it’s a full house always. 

Hungry yet? Well, when you are, let Bristol 45 Diner take you back in time and shake up your dining experience!

(262) 857-4545,
May 2014

Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Staff

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