The door to the Oasis Diner functions as a time machine portal that transports you back to the 1950s, a place where family and friends met for comforting meals at a reasonable price. Today that remains the same.
Location: Oasis Diner located at 405 West Main Street in Plainfield, Indiana.
Menu: The menu features all-American diner food, with a regional twist — diner foods like omelets and burgers, star Indiana pork. So you’ll find a meat lover’s omelet with diced ham, bacon, crumbled sausage, and cheddar cheese. Porky fries continue the Indiana pork theme, starting with pulled pork and BBQ sauce on top of a foundation of ale-battered fries. Add gooey melted cheddar cheese and jalapenos for a touch of heat.
Thoughts: Owners Doug Huff and Don Rector restored the Oasis Diner’s interior and exterior to its original glory. The original pink and gray tiles line the floor and front of the counter. Covered cake stands bursting with saucer-sized cinnamon rolls sit within easy reach on the diner’s original counter. Stools with red vinyl seats trimmed in chrome are also original to the building.
The building’s front, the width of the restaurant, is the first portion of the diner sent by rail from New Jersey in the 1950s. Once Indiana Landmarks listed Oasis Diner as one of the 10 Most Endangered Indiana Buildings. Today, it’s no longer endangered.
The owners added the rear of the building in the current location to the original railroad car-shaped diner. In this area, chrome-trimmed tables and chairs sit on a red and white tile floor. In keeping with the vintage look, chair seats and booths are also red vinyl.
A 1950’s pink button-up waitress uniform with short-sleeves and black trim hangs on the wall. In contrast, today’s servers wear modern garb, logo’d T-shirts and denim jeans.
Another wall displays a parade of school lunch boxes marching through the decades, starting with the 1950s right through the 1990s. See if you can find yours in the mix. On another wall, license plates starting in 1954 pay homage to the diner’s history.
The Historic National Road, US 40, from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois, once had diners dotting the entire route. But today, less than five traditional diners are left, and the Oasis Diner is the only one in Indiana remaining on that route.
The Indiana Foodways Alliance’s Tenderloin Lovers Trail features over 70 places where you can try an authentic Hoosier tenderloin sandwich. Oasis Diner’s tenderloin ranks in the top 10. Since I was a tenderloin neophyte, I couldn’t wait to experience my first. And an experience it was!
Oasis Diner offers their tenderloin fried, grilled, or blackened; a table of locals held their breath while I decided, they nodded their heads in confirmation when I chose fried. That’s the usual way, they assured me. The pork tenderloin, pounded thin and as big as my face, came lightly breaded and deep-fried to a golden brown. Then they accompany it with lettuce, tomato, purple onion, dill pickle chips, and garlic mayo served on a toasted brioche bun. Today, I’m a pork tenderloin lover.
The house-made onion rings are a perfect balance of thickly sliced onions with a generous coating of batter. You can hear the crunch when you take a bite.
If you’ve already had your fill of tenderloin for the week, another favorite diner option is the Oasis Burger. The sandwich is a double burger with melted cheddar cheese and then topped with pulled pork and crispy bacon. Finally, they cover it all in BBQ sauce, top it with coleslaw, dill pickle chips and serve it on a toasted brioche bun.
Oasis Diner is also on the Indiana Foodways Alliance’s Soda-Licious Trail, included because they offer almost a dozen flavors of hand-crafted sodas. These sodas are locally produced and sweetened naturally. My favorite was the butterscotch root beer. The prominent flavor was root beer but not overly sweet, reminding me of the root beer from my childhood. The butterscotch flavor was just a hint in the background.
Price Range: Starters range from $6.99 for the fried pickles or the onion rings to $13.99 for the sampler. Soups and salads run from $2.99 for a cup of tomato basil bisque to $8.99 for a chef salad. The blue-plate specials run from $10.99 for the spaghetti and meatballs or chicken dinner to $14.99 for the ribeye steak — dinner for two runs about $35, including taxes and gratuity.
Disclosure: Visit Hendricks County provided the author with a complimentary meal.