Charlie Parker’s Diner Serves Home Cookin’ with a Side of Nostalgia
Things can get a little – or a lot – cheesy at Charlie Parker’s Diner, depending on the size of your appetite. A mainstay for Springfield locals since it opened in an old World War II Quonset hut in 1992, this breakfast and lunch spot is famous for its breakfast version of the region’s iconic horseshoe. It comes with two pieces of toast layered with eggs cooked any style, a protein (ham, bacon or sausage patties), potato (fries, tater tots or hashbrowns) and cheese – ooey, gooey, rich cheese that brings it all together. If cheese isn’t your thing, you can substitute gravy, or even request both.
Not for the health-conscious diner, the horseshoe is a top seller.
“It probably makes up 80% of our orders,” says William (Bill) Pope, who’s owned the restaurant since 2017. Guy Fieri helped make it even more popular when he ate one on an episode of Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” 11 years ago.
But people don’t only come for the horseshoe. More than just filling bellies, Charlie Parker’s fills a little bit of your soul, too.
“People like the nostalgia,” Pope says. “That’s what a lot of them come in for.”
For example, kids who’ve never seen a record before spot them covering the walls and think it’s the greatest thing ever. There’s an old coffee maker from the 1960s that regulars love. And the old neon sign behind the counter that bears the restaurant’s name transports you back in time.
Charlie Parker's Diner
Location: 700 N. St. in Springfield
Hours: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 7 a.m. to 2 p.m on Sunday
Phone: (217) 241-2104
The old adage “the early bird gets the worm” holds true here, as you’ll have a hard time scoring a table between the hours of 8 and 10 a.m., with up to an hour wait on weekends. Pope recommends arriving early, when the diner opens at 6, to get your choice of eight counter stools or a booth.
If you’re feeling up for a challenge, Charlie Parker’s has a longstanding contest: Consume all four of the 16-inch hotcakes on the giant pancake platter (they’re the size of a large pizza) and you’ll win a T-shirt and a gift card. According to Pope, only three people in the history of the diner have actually finished it.