Story: David Moore
Photos: Chris Redd
If you’re looking for a family-style diner for breakfast and lunch, Darrell’s Dog Gone Good Diner could be just the one.
Here you’ll find a full menu of breakfast and lunch items made to your liking, friendly waitresses, freshly ground coffee, daily specials and homemade desserts, like a triple layer Chocolate Fudge Cake. Pick a seat at the long counter or find a table at the original Darrell’s, located at 3375 E. Silver Springs Blvd. It’s one of four here in Ocala.
On this weekday, I brought my oldest son, Grayson, 9, for some breakfast and father-son time before school. We decided to sit at the counter and I’m glad we did. I think sitting at the counter can give you a good feel for a place. It also gives you the opportunity to chat with other customers and watch all the food go by.
Our waitress was very helpful, taking our drink orders while we perused the menu. And what a menu, offering everything from custom-made omelets, biscuits and gravy, breakfast sandwiches, freshly made Belgian waffles, pancakes and more.
I was trying to decide between Darrell’s Famous Scramble Cheese Eggs or the Two Egg Omelet made with your choice of two ingredients. Our waitress said both were great choices so I opted for an omelet with cheese and tomatoes. It comes with a biscuit or toast, and your choice of grits, hash browns or home fries. I went with the biscuit and hash browns. But since I’m a grits guy, I had to try the grits, too.
My omelet was big and fluffy, just like the waitress promised. I could see some tomato and cheese spilling out of a corner, indicating a good amount of ingredients inside. It tasted as good as it looked. The hash browns were crispy and delicious. The grits were just right, too. A side order of bacon came with three tasty strips, the perfect addition to my meal.
“I have a unique way of making my omelets to where they are super, super fluffy,” said Darrell Warden, owner and operator. “They’re huge sellers.”
Grayson decided on the French toast with a side of sausage patties. We both gave it thumbs up. The fluffy triangles had a great flavor with a great touch of cinnamon. They were sprinkled with powdered sugar, making them extra delicious when we added the syrup.
Sitting at the counter, I met Justin Fender, a regular at Darrell’s who has breakfast or lunch there two to three times a week. He raved about the breakfast and lunch menu, especially the burgers and sandwiches. On this day he had the Sirloin Strip Steak and Eggs for breakfast, which looked delicious.
Next time I’d like to try the Mountain Scrambler – biscuits topped with sausage, scrambled eggs, country gravy and cheese, served with home fries or hash browns. Warden said it’s one of his most popular breakfast dishes.
You can actually have breakfast all day at Darrell’s, which is good to know. But you’ll want to try lunch, too.
The Mushroom Swiss Burger, the Santa Fe Chicken Wrap served with a side of pasta salad, and the Homemade Pulled Pork Sandwich had me thinking ahead to lunch even though I had just finished breakfast.
While the Reuben is actually the top lunch seller, Darrell’s is also big on its half-pound hamburgers. “We’ve been called out on our burgers many times for being the No. 1 burger around,” he said, mentioning a local radio station’s best burger contest. “It’s fresh ground beef, never frozen and it’s a chargrilled burger. I call it a good backyard burger.”
Darrell’s also offers a homemade soup of the day and chili, as well as a variety of salads. And then there’s the daily special – a very popular feature with the Darrell’s crowd. It’s a home cooked meal like meatloaf, pot roast, beef tips, stuffed peppers. It’s served with set sides, like mashed potatoes and green beans, for example.
Customers like the specials so much that they started requesting them on certain days. If a customer asks for meatloaf for next Tuesday, for example, the server would add it to the calendar if that day is open. Most weeks, the calendar is full of the requests, which makes things easy for Warden as he’s planning the menu.
“I really believe people like that,” he said. “It gives them a sense of involvement with the diner.”
All of the burgers and sandwiches are served with the side item of your choice, which includes steak fries, potato salad, pasta salad, Cole slaw, fresh fruit, cottage cheese or onion rings.
And don’t forget about the homemade desserts. On this day, we watched a tall chocolate cake being carried to a cake plate beneath a glass dome. There it sat, tempting all who could see it, including my son.
“I now have a craving for chocolate cake,” Grayson said with a smile. “We need to come back here for lunch.”
Warden said he used to make all the desserts himself, but with four diners now, that’s not so easy. He’s trained his staff and has now delegated some of the dessert duty, which includes such triple layer specialties as Butter Pecan, Fresh Strawberry Cream, German Chocolate and Coconut Crème. Two popular pies are the Banana Creme and Coconut Crème Pie, which do very well in the summer.
Ocala’s original Darrell’s opened in October 2009. As business grew, more people started asking him to open a place west of Interstate 75 so they wouldn’t have to drive as far. Last fall things finally fell together and he began the expansion. He added a second Darrell’s in Silver Spring Shores on Maricamp Road in September, followed by one near the On Top of the World community on State Road 200, and finally one on U.S. 27 in February.
Darrell travels between the stores all week to make sure everything is consistent, something that is very important to him. He loves it when a customer tells him the food at the diner on State Road 200 is just as good as that of the original.
“To me, that’s the best compliment I can get,” he said.
If You Go…
Visit any one of their four locations
3375 E Silver Springs Blvd. – 352.351.5632
7578 SE Maricamp Rd. – 352.687.0158
8441 SW Hwy 200 #105 Winn Dixie Plaza – 352.671.9888
4409 NW Blitchton Rd Hwy 27 Winn Dixie Plaza – 352.867.7070
Open daily for breakfast and lunch from 6 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Darryl’s Southern Potato Salad
8-10 red potatoes
½ onion (finely diced)
1 green pepper (finely diced)
¼ lb thick sliced smoked bacon, (fried well, chopped)
3 cups heavy duty mayonnaise
½ cup yellow mustard
3 tbl spoons of apple cider vinegar
Boil potatoes until still just a little firm, (you don’t want them mushy). Potatoes should be medium to large chunks. Drain and let cool completely! Add all ingredients to cooled potatoes, stir together well, but gently so to leave potatoes in chunks.
Place covered in fridge best when served cold!! ENJOY!!