/ Q&A: Behind-the-scenes at Delta Diner

Q&A: Behind-the-scenes at Delta Diner

Todd and Nina Bucher

Owners Todd and Nina Bucher

Delta Diner near Iron River, Wis. offers an eclectic, retro-American roadside diner experience in a completely rebuilt 1940 Silk City Diner. Said another way: the food is amazing and the place is smack dab in the middle of Wisconsin's northwoods. Todd and Nina Bucher turned their vision into reality nearly a decade ago and the rest - as they say - is history.
Todd: Did you know Delta Diner would be such a hit with locals and tourists alike when you opened in 2003?
We planned for it, but it definitely was a "build it and they will come" risk. We chose the Delta location for many reasons including its remote, yet appealing setting. We do not claim, nor do we want to be "everything to everybody".  Instead, we have created an authentic diner experience for those who wish to travel near, or far, to share in. Taking a long view, we expected that if we stayed true to the model, great and well-matched traffic would build for us, and fortunately it has.
Describe Delta Diner in three words.
Uncommon, Authentic, Real.
What is your favorite dish on the menu?
We have a rule at the Diner that if we can't describe why each and every dish, line-item by line-item, is unique and special, it doesn't make the menu. So, this is tough. But if I had to pick one I would go with our Norwegian Pancakes. They were on the menu from the get-go; are significantly different than virtually any other pancake you've had, and they really helped build the Delta Diner early on.  And, they actually taste great with jalapeños in them! (Cajun Red Beans, Hashbrowns, Perfect Over Easy Egg, PBLT, Mex Benny, and others are all close) 🙂
What's the farthest a customer has traveled to experience Delta Diner?
We regularly see customers drive 2-4 hours, one way, for a meal at the Diner and then drive home. We've even had some fly their planes for a meal.
A few years into our project, a gentleman from Janesville showed up on a Saturday morning for Norwegian Pancakes. Being a diner, we had a chance to talk. Turns out he drove up (6.5 hours one way) that morning to eat at the Diner. When I asked what else brought him to our neck of the woods, he replied "nothing else," I am driving back home when I'm finished! Turns out he grew up in New Jersey with a Silk City Diner, like ours, in his neighborhood. Since he hadn't been in a diner in more than 25 years and there was one only thirteen hours round-trip away, he took the day off and came up for pancakes.
While we have frequent visits from great folks from all over the U.S., that story kind of sticks in my mind.
If you weren't running a diner, what do you think you'd be doing?
Really hard to say. My wife, Nina, and I have been so totally immersed in the culture of the Delta Diner for the past 10 years, it is difficult to look beyond that. Most likely would be building something else, some kind of passionate venture.
Got any weird diner stories for us?
Plenty of really interesting stories happen almost daily. While this story isn't necessarily weird, it does show a weird take on perspective:  Number 7 on the menu used to be a ham and cheese omelet. Occasionally we would ramp it up by using 7 year aged cheddar, or a "7 and 7."  Many working at the Diner had never tasted aged cheddar, so we would sample it for them. The responses were varied, with most of the kids giving unfavorable grades to sharp flavored cheese. One local farm kid, however, just remained silent, seeming to contemplate the cheese, while everybody else reacted. After all others made their opinion known, he proclaimed, "Wow, that cow is dead!" ...Only a farm kid would know.
See Delta Diner featured in Discover Wisconsin's Wisconsin's Cheesiest Foods episode.
Todd Bucher is the owner of Delta Diner in Delta, Wis. He was raised in Fond du Lac, Wis. and attended Ripon College, where he graduated with a degree in sociology and anthology in 1984. He moved to Northwestern Wisconsin with his wife, Nina, in 1995 to pursue more passionate interests. The two began to develop a plan for the Delta Diner in 2001 and opened the doors on November 21, 2003. His other interests include bird hunting, winter camping, travel, motorcycles and cheering on the Packers and Wisconsin Badgers.

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