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Tom and Lynn Dougherty step back in time

The last time Lynn Dougherty laid eyes on Capital City Diner, it was called the Avoca Diner, and it was run by a woman named Brenda Remchuk, a former Corning Glass employee who decided to get into the grease-slinging business. That was in Avoca, N.Y., in 1991.

Before that, Dougherty hadn’t stepped foot in the diner since 1966 when her parents sold the business after running it for more than a decade in Avoca.

But this morning, Dougherty and her husband, Tom, made the trip from Chester, Va., to the Trinidad neighborhood to grab lunch at the grand opening of Capital City Diner. Lynn ordered a cheeseburger with potato salad. Tom got a tuna salad sandwich with a side of potato salad.

“It’s right up there,” Lynn Dougherty says when I ask her to compare the food at Cap City to the meals she enjoyed as a child at the then Goodrich Diner, which her parents bought in the early 50s.  “It’s good food.”

That’s quite a compliment given what Dougherty had written me earlier: that her father, a former Army cook, prepared everything from scratch at the diner. She e-mailed:

“A lot of people started their day with a hearty breakfast at the diner, including homemade donuts that dad made. He also made homemade pies not with canned fillings of today, but made from scratch. He had all his own recipes, great comfort food made with only the best and freshest ingredients. One of my favorites was a hot roast beef sandwich with the best gravy you have ever tasted and mashed potatoes made with real potatoes not boxed. Goulash, chili, roast turkey, roast pork dinners. The list goes on and on…It was our home away from home. We ate dinner there every night.”

Dougherty was impressed with what owners Matt Ashburn and Patrick Carl had done with the place. She thought it looked much the same as the diner of her memories. Well, except for two things: the bathrooms are much bigger than the little airplane-sized toilets of yesteryear and the tiny tabletop jukeboxes are gone from the booths.

She has very fond memories of those jukeboxes. So does her brother, Tim Gilbert, who e-mailed Y&H earlier about a sad day in rock ‘n’ roll history:

I remember the night I heard on the radio Buddy Holly, Richie Valens [sic], and the Big Bopper died in a plane crash out West and I played ‘La Bamba’ on the jukebox. There were snowflakes coming and slowly filling up the parking lot.”