Date of Visit: Thursday, August 5, 2010 at 9:15 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: If diners were people, Fitzy’s Old Fashioned Diner would be the bad-ass older brother you look up to: he’s a little gruff, he’s got posters of girls on his walls, he likes cars, he never goes to bed, and he eats a lot. Parked up on Schrock Road near the big Budweiser plant, Fitzy’s is a classic-looking diner with a little sass and a lot of character. It’s rough around the edges, hung posters of Marilyn Monroe and classic cars, and caters to any crowd, whether you’re stumbling in from a local bar at 2:00 a.m., or settling in for a pleasant 10:00 a.m. meetup with friends.
Owner Mike Lott just celebrated ten years of doing breakfast and more at Fitzy’s. He opened the place in July of 2000, serving his first customer Phil at 5:30 am and closing up shop at 3:00 pm. (P.S. Phil still comes in at 5:30 every morning.) After noticing the trends in crowds, he opened up during third shift to serve the bar customers, and eventually added second shift, too. Quite the unusual order – 1st, 3rd, then 2nd shift – but the result is that rarity of a good Columbus breakfast spot that’s open twenty-four hours a day.
Mike is big and brash, and a lot of fun to talk to. He proudly defends his place, and will fight for his customers. He’s also perfectly honest about his food and his clientele: “We’re selling pork and we’re selling pork fat,” he says. “That’s what America loves. It’s called a greasy spoon for a reason.” In addition to running the great American Diner, Mike occasionally hosts classic car shows with Marilyn Monroe look-alikes.
ATMOSPHERE: I visited Fitzy’s on a relatively quiet Thursday morning, with my occasional breakfast partner Jason. A few other tables were full, but otherwise the crowd was sparse. The nice thing about Fitzy’s round-the-clock availability is that you can visit whenever it best suits your mood. Up for a rowdy atmosphere? Visit at midnight on a weekend. Mike says he has to hire a cop to keep things under control (ask him about the velvet Marilyn Monroe poster that got destroyed). Or if you’re up for something quieter, stop by during second shift – still their slowest period, Mike says.
Have a look around Fitzy’s, and you’ll see all the standard American diner decor. Checkered floor. Counter with swivelly stools. Pictures of Elvis and JFK. Old-timey register. Brown coffee mugs.
FOOD: The breakfast menu is one page long and covers all the basics, but there are a couple items I haven’t seen that often, like the Steak Omelet and the Bologna & Eggs.
Here’s our food when it arrived. Mike made special mention of their home-fried potatoes. He said his loyal customers clamor for them, and he’d probably lose half his clientele if he ever changed the recipe. All the potatoes are hand-washed, peeled, boiled, and sliced before browning on the flattop. Mike says they go through a ton of potatoes every month.
Jason ordered the Steak Omelet with pepperjack cheese. Came with a side of the home fries. The steak is cooked to order. Your choice of cheese. Jason said it was quite good, and huge by any standards.
He ordered a side of the corned beef hash, too. It had a very generous crust, and was slightly sweet.
I was too curious about the Sausage Steak & Gravy not to order it, so I did. Not just sausage gravy and biscuits, mind you. But a gigantic sausage patty with gravy.
Oh, and a massive side of eggs and potatoes.
Oh, and they’ll let you substitute your toast with a pancake or french toast.
They also serve Ronz Original Hot Sauce, made here in Columbus.
Overall, I’d judge the food to be, well, good diner food. Mike has reason to be proud of it. The eggs and pancakes were done well, the sausage patty tasted great (although I doubt it was made in-house). The gravy had a good peppery kick to it, and the potatoes – not the best I’ve ever had – but they tasted fresh and were nice and crispy. Nothing really to rave about, but certainly nothing to complain about, either.
SERVICE: Our service was very fast and very friendly, although we clearly got the royal treatment after our talk with the boss-man. But our server gave us the appropriate amount of sass to make us feel at home in a diner.
OVERALL: Mike’s got a good thing going at Fitzy’s. His restaurant started small, originally only the left side of the restaurant, with a counter and four 2-tops. Over the years, he’s expanded to take up a larger space, including knocking out an efficiency apartment in the back and expanding his bathrooms into it. Mike has created an institution, complete with semi-famous regulars and servers. Fitzy’s is the rough-and-rowdy diner, which means you’ve got to be in the mood for it, but the next time you need a good breakfast, and at any time of day, skip those late-night chains and give Fitzy’s a try.
my (614) Magazine write-up on Columbus diners (article is offline)