Hot Metal Diner
1025 Lebanon Road
West Mifflin, PA 15122

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Winner of 2 Tribune Review Readers' Choice Awards
     Best Fish Sandwich
     Best Family-Owned Business 2010

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The Hot Metal Diner especially wishes to thank Mallet and Company -- specialized manufacturer of oils, ingredients, and custom food equipment -- for their support in getting us started.

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West Mifflin diner mixes traditional fare with 'warm, fuzzy atmosphere'
Thursday, November 08, 2007

By Jennifer Goga

Andy Starnes/Post-Gazette
Wendy Betten is the owner of the recently opened Hot Metal Diner in West Mifflin.

Wendy Betten exudes confidence as she works the dining room of her Hot Metal Diner, refilling coffee cups and making sure customers are satisfied. "Is everything OK?" she asks, table after table.

Later, she adds, "I knew it would be.''

Ms. Betten opened her 1950s-style diner in the Hot Metal Plaza, 1025 Lebanon Road in West Mifflin last month. It features red and black decor with chrome accents.

"We're a diner from days gone by," Ms. Betten explained.

The large, open dining room has a seating capacity of 67, including counter seating for 10. Harley Davidson motorcycle prints adorn the walls. Ms. Betten said she was inspired by the dealership located directly across the street.

Toby O'Brien owns the Hot Metal Harley Davidson dealership across the way and also owns the Hot Metal Plaza where the diner is located.

"We found numerous ways to co-market our businesses,' Mr. O'Brien said.

One of those ways includes lending Ms. Betten a customized 2005 Harley Davidson Softail Standard model to display near the diner's front door. The original retail price for the bike was $58,000.

"It's one of our show bikes," said Mr. O'Brien.

Mr. O'Brien also drives business to the diner by offering food vouchers to his customers while they wait for service on their bikes.

And he eats there every day. His favorite is the Fat Boy breakfast sandwich, a carb and fats combination he said "may not be good for the heart, but it's delicious."

Mr. O'Brien believes that the Hot Metal Diner will do well, in part because local folks appreciate a "warm and fuzzy atmosphere.''

The menu offers traditional diner fare for breakfast, with prices ranging from $4.99 for the Raisin French Toast to $17.95 for the Heritage Classic steak and eggs, which includes a 16-ounce steak and three eggs.

The most popular menu item is the Hot Metal Mixed Grill for $5.99, which features eggs, potatoes, grilled peppers and onions, along with toasted Italian bread.

Ms. Betten believes her commitment to using high-quality local products such as Mancini's Italian bread and Uncle Charley's sausage, along with generous portions, will keep the customers coming back.

"The pancakes are about a pound apiece," she says. Measuring nearly 8 inches in diameter, the stack is dusted with powdered sugar and overlaps the colorful plates.

The Hot Metal Diner didn't land in West Mifflin by chance. "I like to do my homework," Ms. Betten said.

In her research, Ms. Betten discovered that Route 885 is one of the most heavily traveled roads in Pennsylvania. The location's proximity to a Port Authority bus garage and Bombardier Transportation, along with a large gas and truck refueling station nearby, create additional traffic she hopes will generate customers.

"It was strategic planning," Ms. Betten said. "It's true what they say in the business: location, location, location."

With 31 years of restaurant experience and with the proceeds from the 2006 sale of her previous diner, Bob's on Noblestown Road, in the Green Tree-Crafton area, Ms. Betten emerged from a brief retirement to open the diner.

Her husband, Gary, is still retired but does lend a hand around the diner. "He does my book work, fix-it jobs and he's my buddy," Ms. Betten said.

West Mifflin Mayor John Andzelik is happy to have the new business in his borough. "The food is really good," he said.

"And, it's exciting to see someone starting a business not associated with a chain.''

Jennifer Goga is a freelance writer.
First published on November 8, 2007 at 5:49 am

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