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Local Couple Finding Success in the Restaurant Game

Writer / Julie Yates
Photography Provided

Open since the summer of 2021, Danny’s Diner is already gathering a following of fans who are loving the pizza, grinders and other offerings the eatery serves up. The Middlebury business is owned by local resident Danny Hochstetler and his wife Leah. Today the building has a fresh new look inside, but it’s had several different restaurant identities in the past. 

Older generations knew it as a creamery owned by Vic Hooley, who sold legendary ice cream. Later it became part of the Mancino’s Italian Eatery chain. More recently, it was the site of Northridge Pizzeria.

Danny, who grew up in Millersburg, met Leah when they both worked at the Jayco RV factory. After they got married in 2018, they moved to Middlebury where Leah was born and raised. They were looking for a change when the chance to own a business presented itself.

“I was intrigued with owning a restaurant,” Danny Hochstetler says. “Dips On The Vine, an ice cream shop, came up for sale but it didn’t work out for us to get it. Then this opportunity came up and we bought the business at the end of June 2021. We no longer work at the factory. The restaurant gets our full attention. We changed the name and gave it a refresh. The inside was all repainted. There’s just a bit of the old striped wallpaper left over in one corner. We redid the kitchen. A bigger oven was put in, to put out more pizza, and we scrubbed the place to get it really clean.”

Danny’s Diner

The carry-out pizza business at Danny’s Dinner is booming. The most frequently ordered pizza is the Meat, a specialty selection featuring pepperoni, sausage, bacon, ham and ground beef. Another popular choice is the Chicken Bacon Ranch, but customers enjoy several other varieties such as the Chicken & Spinach and the Hawaiian. A gluten-free pizza is also on the menu. There are four pizza sizes, from an extra-large 16” with 10 slices to a personal size of 7”. An extra-large specialty is $19.99, while a cheese-only personal pizza is $3.49.

Besides pizza, the restaurant also offers breakfast pizza, grinders, burgers and salads, as well as other items such as calzones, french fries, wings, breadstick varieties and cheese bread. The grinders are a throwback to when the location was a Mancino’s – the chain is known for them. Unlike cold subs, they are oven-baked and served warm. One theory is that the sandwich is a New England version of the gyro, eaten by Italian-American dockworkers nicknamed “Grinders.”

Of the 16 types of grinders available at Danny’s Diner, the most popular is the Italian, followed by the Stromboli. They come in two sizes – 4” for $4.19 and 8” at $7.99. To round out a meal, salads are also available. Among the seven salads on the menu, patrons seem to especially love the Chef and Garden salads. Of course, ice cream is a great way to top it all off.

“Many people come in with families just for the ice cream,” Hochstetler says. “I would really like to grow the ice cream side of the business, and in the future we have plans to put in a soft-serve ice cream machine. Also, I hope that someday we can have a pizza buffet.” 

Danny’s Diner

Delivery makes it easy for factory workers and families. The full menu can be found on the official website. Customers can call with their order. The delivery charge is $10 within five miles of the restaurant and $1 for every additional mile.

“When it was Northridge Pizzeria it was open on Sunday,” Hochstetler says. “Since I am a Christian, Danny’s Diner is closed then. I was worried about losing an extra day to make money, but we have been blessed being open six days instead of seven. It’s been busy. I wasn’t familiar with the restaurant business before, but am now. I love it. Our biggest surprise was the overwhelming support of the community.”

Danny’s Diner is located at 422 South Main Street in Middlebury. Call them at 574-825-2565. For more info and to view the menu, visit dineatdannys.com.

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