DATE: Friday, August 15, 1997               TAG: 9708150246



                                            LENGTH:   90 lines


Diners looking for a meal and a bit of nostalgia can get both at Cosmo's Diner, a new restaurant in Western Branch.

The diner, which is named for co-owner Cosmo D. Walker, might look authentic, but it is actually a reproduction. Cosmo (that's his real name) and his wife Cindy, purchased the building from a Florida company called Starlite Diners. Starlite Diners is also responsible for Mel's Diner, a new tourist draw for folks traveling to the Outer Banks. The company has even shipped diners overseas to Russia and Germany.

Life-sized, cardboard figures of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe greet patrons at Cosmo's as they enter the establishment. While waiting for their diner fare, patrons are likely to hear Patsy Cline croon ``Crazy.'' The Elvis Presley Limited Edition Wurlitzer also includes oldies-but-goodies from the likes of The Beatles and other rock 'n' roll legends.

The diner rolled into town in April on three separate tractor trailers, one for the kitchen, one for the dining area and a third for the vestibule.

Although the building comes complete with booths, formica tables, counters, bar stools and an equipped kitchen, Cindy said the restaurant is not a franchise.

``We picked out our own decorations and interior colors and added the neon lighting outside. We even put the menu together,'' she said.

Before the Walkers decided on their menu, they did a bit of research.

``We read books about old diners and poured over old menus,'' Cindy Walker said.

The couple came up with a mix of entrees including hamburgers, steak, fresh seafood and an assortment of salads and desserts. Although the menu is varied and includes comfort meals such as pork chops, liver and onions, and steak, the Walkers said most patrons prefer the stock diner meal: hamburger, fries and a milkshake.

``Ice cream has been a big draw,'' Cosmo Walker said. Other dessert items include cobbler, pies, cakes and malted milk.

Because hamburgers are such a big part of their business, the couple opted not to purchase pre-formed, frozen burgers.

``We tried them all and they weren't good,'' Cindy Walker said.

Instead, the restaurant's manager, Betty Vaughan, orders ground beef in bulk. More than 600 pounds of ground-beef patties sizzle on the grill each week.

``We have one staff person assigned each day just to make hamburger patties,'' Cindy Walker said.

Cosmo's Diner sits on property that has been in the Walker family for decades. Cosmo's grandfather, James Felix Walker, owned Pine Grove Dairy Farms, which was housed on what is now the restaurant's site and a housing development which Cindy, a licensed real estate agent, oversees and sells. The Walkers said that, at one time, Pine Grove was the seventh largest producer of Golden Guernsey Milk in the country.

When Cosmo Walker inherited the land, the couple used some of the land for the housing development and now, the diner.

``The family has made a living off this land in many ways,'' Cindy Walker said.

In keeping with the spirit of the land, the diner's bar stools are covered in a black and white cowhide design. Pictures of Pine Grove Dairy Farms and prized dairy cows hang on the walls of the diner next to old Look magazine covers and photographs of Jackie Kennedy, Elvis and the original James Bond, Sean Connery.

``Customers are offering us old pictures of the region and we have the space to use them,'' Cindy Walker said. ``We wanted to include some old photographs of the area for the personal touch.''

Although the Walkers are new to the restaurant business, they agreed they are enjoying the venture. Already, the establishment is drawing a crowd of regulars. Some of the customers are using the restaurant to reacquaint themselves with neighbors.

``Some of them haven't seen each other for 10 or 15 years,'' Cosmo Walker said. ``It's amazing to watch them get to know each other again.'' MEMO: Cosmo's Diner is open 7 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. The restaurant is

smoke-free and offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Prices range from

$2.95 to $12.95. Cosmo's is located on the corner of Jolliff Road and

Portsmouth Boulevard in Western Branch. Reservations are not accepted.

For more information, call 488-5999. ILLUSTRATION: Staff photos by VICKI CRONIS

A vintage car sits outside Cosmo's Diner at the corner of Jolliff

Road and Portsmouth Boulevard.

Denise Oxton, 4, snuggles with her father Chad, and her mother Alyce

looks on while seated on the ``cow-hide''-covered bar stools at


Life-sized, cardboard figures of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe greet

patrons at Cosmo's as they enter - or -exit - the establishment.

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