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Main Street Diner Is Quickly Becoming a Knox Favorite

Photographer / Angela Cornell

Small-town culture is a world unto itself. The center of it is typically the little diner downtown, where people go to chew the fat — both literally and figuratively. Birdie’s Main Street Diner in Knox is like that.

“I have a group of guys come here every morning, probably eight of them, and they solve the world’s problems right there at the table. Tomorrow they’ll have a different problem to solve but they’ll get it done,” says owner Phyllis Foust with a smile on her face. “I stand behind the counter and I just jump in when I feel it’s needed and they know I’m going to. It’s fun and I enjoy watching all that stuff going on.”

Foust, a life-long resident of Knox, was introduced to the restaurant business early in life. Her mother, Birdie Howard, supported their family as a waitress for many years in the building that Foust now owns.

“Many years ago, when I was a little girl, she would walk here to work,” Foust says.

As Foust grew up, she knew she wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

“I’ve always worked restaurants,” she says. Then in 2001, she, along with her daughter and son-in-law, opened her own. She worked in Castaways until retirement, when she passed the baton of the Plymouth restaurant to her daughter and his family.

As someone who has always led an active lifestyle, Foust knew she wanted a retirement project. When the restaurant that Howard had worked in went on the market, Foust pounced on the opportunity. She reopened it as a small family diner and named it after her mother.

“When I bought this place, I felt like I had come home,” Foust says.

Understanding the importance of family legacy leads Foust to have an active influence in her grandchildren’s lives.

“What I really see for this building is a place for the younger [grandkids] to come after school or when they’re off, they can have a job,” she says.

Even though Birdie’s has only been open since February 2019, it has developed a reputation for quality food and service.

“If you’re a customer here, you’re going to be treated just like family,” she says.

Her staff, which includes family members like her daughter Jessica, and long-time friends, have played a significant role in helping Birdie’s take off.

“We’re kinda close-knit,” Foust says. “We’re very small — it’s family-oriented.”

Birdie’s can be best characterized as a comfort food diner. The menu is full of American favorites like pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and skillets for breakfast. For lunch, there are options like burgers and fries and their big-ticket item, soup beans and cornbread. On Mondays, however, the menu switches to include Mexican foods.

There’s a two-part secret to what makes Birdie’s so well-liked. First, they serve only high-quality food.

“Everything here is made in the kitchen. We don’t buy anything that is pre-cooked or pre-made,” Foust says.

It’s a commendation that speaks highly of her incredible chef, Manuel Ruiz.

“In my opinion, I have one of the best cooks you’ll find,” she says.

The second part of Foust’s secret sauce is her genuine love for making sure her customers have a wonderful experience. The comfortable family atmosphere is something that her guests have come to love and expect, too.

“I think that’s the best part for me, watching people talk and have a good time and spend time with their loved ones,” she says.

For Foust, it’s a dream come true. “This is what I want, right here.”

Birdie’s Main Street Diner is located at 14 S. Main St., Knox. They are open daily for breakfast and lunch from 6 AM – 2 PM central time. Order to-go by calling 574-772-4660. View the menu online at facebook.com/birdiesknox.

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