Warm lighting, high-backed booths, drinks served in Coca-Cola cups, and a vintage counter lined with stools all give the Palace Cafe the old-fashioned feel of a classic American diner.
The cafe on Howell Street has been in the Hillsdale community since the 1800’s. It has seen different owners, names, menus, and even different generations, but its warm and welcoming atmosphere has remained the same.
“That’s my whole goal: to make customers feel welcomed,” said the owner of the cafe, Leslie Meredith.
Meredith, the previous manager of the cafe, bought it in March 2011.
The cafe has been in Hillsdale’s community for so long that it was rewarded with a place in Hillsdale’s Historical Society’s tour.
“This place really teaches about the community,” said Jentry McAdams, a waitress at the cafe.
The cafe’s walls are lined with Hillsdale-themed oil paintings that have been there for over fifty years, as well as black and white photographs of Hillsdale.
Because the cafe is part of the Historical Society tour, Meredith cannot make many changes to it.
This means that instead of changing the tile in the front of the store, she hides it with carpet.
The red and white tiles spell out the words ‘candy kitchen,’ surrounded by Indian symbols. Meredith thinks these symbols mean peace.
Around the time of World War II, many people mistook the Indian symbols for Nazi swastikas because they look very similar, Meredith said.
“It caused quite a controversy; some people stopped coming in here because of it.” Meredith said.
As for the rest of the décor, Meredith said she wouldn’t change any of it even if she could.
“It’s familiar and home to so many people, and I wouldn’t want to take that away by changing it,” Meredith said.
This is the same reason Meredith decided not to change the menu after she bought the restaurant.
The cafe serves breakfast and lunch from when it opens at 6 a.m. to closing time at 2 p.m.
Some of the titles of the meals on the menu go along with the ‘Palace’ theme of the café. The “King” meal, the biggest meal, includes three eggs, three strips of bacon, and three sausage links served with pancakes. The “Queen” has two of everything with French toast. The “Prince” also has two of everything, but with pancakes, and the “Princess” has one of everything.
Carol and Terry Keinath have been coming to the cafe almost everyday for breakfast for the past 22 years, and Carol Keinath says she doesn’t even remember what the menu looks like.
“We haven’t needed it [the menu] in so long. We come in and order the same thing every time,” she said. “It has changed ownership and the waitresses have changed, but the same people have been eating here for years.”
The cafe was originally called The Palace of Sweets. It was then transformed into soda and ice cream shop called The Whistle Shop, which became a popular hangout for kids after school. The Whistle Shop only lasted a few years before it returned to it’s original cafe form, this time under the current name.
Charlie Moore has been coming to the cafe since 1968 when he was invited to join ‘the breakfast club’.
The breakfast club was an unofficial club started around World War II. It consisted of many prominent figures from around town such as attorneys and judges. The club would always meet at the circle table in the back of the cafe for breakfast, Moore said.
“There would rarely be a day where at least one of us was not here having breakfast,” Moore said. “Our club is kind of teetering out now. We’ve been slacking when it comes to recruiting, but we are always open to new members.”
Moore says he still comes to the cafe regularly because of the consistent quality of the food.
Senior Ashley Jagielski lived in the apartment above the cafe last year and ate there often. She encourages students to try out the cafe.
“It’s definitely worth going to because it’s super affordable and it has a really nice atmosphere. The waitresses always remembered our names when we went in,” Jagielski said.
Freshman Amanda Gehrke also loves the Palace Cafe’s atmosphere.
Before coming to Hillsdale College, Gehrke went to the cafe with her family almost every Sunday after moving to Hillsdale five years ago.
“The pancakes were my favorite thing to get when I was a kid because they were so huge. I’m surprised by how much they give you every time I go there,” Gehrke said. “The place just has a happy, small-town feel and I would highly recommend it to anyone.”