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Friday, October 19, 2012

Homemade at Hope's Diner

Catfish and crafts co-exist, and passed-down recipes and home-cooked food go hand in hand.

Ashley and James Fincher named their new restaurant after their 19-month-old daughter Hope.

Photos by SHERESE GORE | Laker Weekly

Ashley and James Fincher named their new restaurant after their 19-month-old daughter Hope.

Along with home-cooked food, Hope's Diner offers for sale a variety of homemade items.

Along with home-cooked food, Hope's Diner offers for sale a variety of homemade items.

Like any good hostess, Hope Fincher makes the rounds, greeting customers and making small, albeit baby, talk with guests. The 19-month-old toddler is the namesake of Hope's Diner in Bedford, which offers traditional American fare at what Hope's dad and restaurant co-owner James Fincher, 34, says are reasonable prices.

"It's all good home-cooked comfort food," he said.

Six employees contribute to Hope's daily operation. Fincher is the primary cook. His wife, Ashley, 28, who is expecting the couple's second child, is often on the premises with Hope in tow.

Everything on the menu is created fresh, and taste is the driving factor for the extra effort, Fincher said. One item especially popular with guests are the potato chips, which are made on site.

"Anything we can do homemade, we're going to do homemade," he said.

Recipes are a combination of two family traditions. Ashley, a cousin of country singer June Carter, said the house meatloaf is a Carter family recipe.

Breakfast items at Hope's Diner are served throughout the day. Signature lunch dishes include the Bedford Burger, a half pound of beef topped with pulled pork, bacon and cheddar cheese, and the SML Burger with sauteed mushrooms and melted Swiss.

Fried catfish is also popular, "and of course, the ribs," said Fincher. [The ribs] are the only item on the menu priced over $10. Fincher said they are so good that he's planning to enter them in a barbecue contest.

"I think I'm going to win that one," he said.

Desserts are nostalgic mainstays: root beer floats, ice cream sundaes and homemade sweet potato and cherry pies.

"There's really nowhere around here with homecooked food to appeal to all the older and younger folks around here," said Fincher.

Both Finchers acquired culinary training from previous hospitality jobs. When the couple decided to go into business for themselves, six months of planning and labor were needed to have the diner operating by its grand opening in April.

"A lot of things just fell into place," Fincher said.

The conversion of the retail space from its previous occupancy as a convenience store to a wholescale diner was a feat performed by Fincher with help from friends and family.Ashley acted as the interior decorator.

Guests are greeted to a rustic display of family memorabilia, and the many crafts lining the diner's wall are available for purchase.

The steel doors of the convenience store's walk-in refrigeration unit were removed, and the space within was converted into a play area for young children. Rubberized mats and toys cover the floor, and finger paint is available for children to leave handprints on the walls.

As patrons dine, the couple routinely interact with their guests.

"It's just like having dinner at your house," said Fincher.

Hope's Diner, 8123 Moneta Road, Bedford. 583-5060. Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed on Monday.