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Villanova Diner RIP

I noticed the other day that a Main Line landmark has been erased from the planet: the Villanova Diner. (It was torn down and replaced by a bank.) Many years ago, the building was a Howard Johnson’s restaurant which offered decent typical diner fare and a galaxy of ice cream flavors. The Howard Johnson’s closed and was reopened as the Villanova Diner.

Because of its convenient location and the dearth of restaurants in the immediate vicinity, I’ve eaten there quite a few times over the years. So did a lot of people; the place was always busy. Normally if I don’t like a restaurant, I won’t bother to write about it, but in this case I’m making an exception: I can’t think of a place with consistently worse food. Nothing I ever ate there was any good. Over the years I kept simplifying my order in a quest to find something that tasted good. Even a humble tuna sandwich or a diner staple like bacon and eggs had that certain nothing. An amazing place; I don’t know how they did it. I’m sure the bank will serve better meals. At least the dishes should come with interest.


there was a 24-hr diner near me that sounds similar in consistency of "food quality" that went under a couple years ago (Savoy, I think, 11th & locust).

Wow. All those times I went there with friends when it was busy, we just thought our sense of taste was radically different from everyone else's.

Speaking of Main Line diners, I was out toward Manilla's a while back and I didn't see it anywhere. Didn't it used to be next to Chili's? Just wondering.

Location. Location. Location.

You can be crappy if you're convenient. Which is true for a lot of things in life.

Howard, Manilla's is there, just not Manilla's. They sold the original diner building to a place in Florida, disassembled it piece by piece, and put up the over-loud monstrosity up in its old place next to Chilis. Crazy, the place is completely different. I won't go there now. Little kids grinding pancakes into the carpet while their parents ignore it and the decibel level hovers in the mid 90s. I'd rather eat in the jetwash of a 737 than go to this "Manilla's."

Tony, that Villanova Diner...everyone I know, including me, has had a parallel experience. I'm into a few good diners in the are now: Nudy's in Devon, The Classic Diner in Frazer, and Meredith's in Berywn. All are different, but worth the trip on Sunday morning.

If I know anything about restaurants, I know that the Villanova Diner was way below average; still it’s nice to hear that opinion echoed.
Ellen, I’ve been to the dearly-departed Savoy maybe a half-dozen times, so I can say that, as funky and humble as it was, its food outclassed the Villanova Diner’s handily.
Wow, Frank, that’s interesting about Minella’s. Because the footprint of the new place is the same, I assumed that it was just remodeled. Minella’s and I go back to around 1976 and I’ve eaten there hundreds of times, although not recently. Sad to hear it’s nothing like the old place. Thanks for the recommendations further west!
Howard, I think your sense of taste is fine. Like Tom said, Location. Location. Location.

Thanks for info, Frank.

I must've driven by the Manilla's location a couple years ago (I think). I remember it was after a late movie and we were going to go in for a bowl of soup or something. It was gone. I just assumed that was it for the old place -- guess it was, now that you mention it.

Ah, the memories (and nicknames; we used to call the place Sal-Manilla's)

And thanks for re-affirmation of my taste, Tony. Sometimes I'm not so sure...

Yeah, Sal Manilla! Great tenor player from South Philly. Haven’t seen him in years. He usually worked with this guy Al Dente, who sounded just like Louis Prima. :-)

Impressive...For going there so often and not liking the food, that doesn't say much about actions speaking louder than words. I would never go back to a restaurant i spoke so poorly of, which makes me think that maybe it wasn't the food that bothered you there but maybe someone. There are many different categories in the restaurant business. When you pay $5 for a burger at a diner, you shouldn't have the expecations of a $20 High-end Restuarant burger. I think this is what people who don't know the food industry can't distinguish between. I hope the next restaurant/diner you go to so often is actually one you can praise. To say you went often although you didn't like the food, doesn't say much... sorry.

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