After having lunch at the Oasis Diner in Plainfield, Indiana, on U.S. 40, I had a first-hand look at a detail that historians have long touted. People were shorter and thinner in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The fact became clear when I sat in one of the Oasis booths, which represent the look and feel of the 1950’s.
The diner made its first appearance in 1954 when it was shipped by railway to its central Indiana home on the west side of town. It continued to operate there until 2008. The restaurant sat vacant for a few years. Then current owners Doug Huff and Don Sector got involved. After about three years of planning, the duo moved the diner to 405 W. Main Street. They renovated, kept the 1950’s vibe and created an inviting façade. Oasis reopened in 2015.
Today diners might find some of the seating a bit confining. For those seeking a roomy seat, chairs and tables in the back are accommodating. But be sure not to miss the opportunity to have a good-sized lunch or breakfast here. The retro look makes the experience worthwhile.
The Oasis is one of only five original diners on U.S., also known as the National Road, through Indiana. In fact, Indiana Landmarks had listed the diner as one of 10 most endangered Indiana Buildings in 2010.
Meals served here seem like the typical foods found at a grill—hamburgers, bacon and eggs, and more. Our meal consisted of a wedge salad, BLT and Reuben sandwich. All choices were amply provided. My desire for bacon and fresh vegetables was satisfied. The Reuben consumed by my dining partner was fine, although he had hoped for a little better.
Come for the food, and you’ll have a good-sized meal. But I think that the experience is the main attraction. Here you can have a taste of traveling in the 1950’s. Diners like the Oasis were once plentiful, particularly along the National Road.
Although the first diner was created in 1872, it wasn’t until after World War II in 1946 that they began to spread across the county. They were considered attractive small business opportunities. Many were prefabricated, similar to the Oasis. Often times the style was long and narrow and designed to allow road or rail transportation to the eatery’s location. A service counter spreads nearly across the length with stools for seating. Some, like the Oasis, have a row of booths against the front wall and at one end. The décor was selected to copy elements of rail dining cars. Plus, many diner owners chose to expand a little by adding space to the back of the original building.
By the 1970’s, however, franchise fast-food restaurants became the trend and overwhelmed the competition of diners.
Today, the sight of the railway-simulated diner is rare in Indiana. For those in central Indiana, however, a retro diner is easy to find at 405 West Main Street, on the historic U.S. 40 in Plainfield.