Bob Marshall’s widow will tell you his true love was breakfast.
In 1999, after unsuccessful attempts at finding the perfect morning meal around Pittsburgh, Marshall opened his own diner. And thanks to the food and his entrepreneurial spirit, it quickly became a local chain.
Bob’s Diner is the home of Bob’s Bountiful Breakfast: two eggs any style, home fries, toast and your choice of meat. (Go with the bacon. It’s thick and crisp and doesn’t bend when you hold it, which was Bob’s litmus test for perfect bacon.)
I devoured this gut-busting special while chatting with Dané Marshall, who took the reins of her husband’s culinary empire after his death from cancer in 2018.
On a blustery winter morning, it felt good to sip hot coffee, dive into a mountain of potatoes and see the warm smiles of Dané, her staff and the loyal patrons.
The company, which operates restaurants in Kennedy Township, Carnegie and Castle Shannon, has not only survived the pandemic but has thrived.
To keep up with customer demand for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Kennedy Township location at 1815 McKees Rocks Road is moving to a bigger storefront next-door. It’s expected to open by the end of the month. A bakery will occupy the vacated space.
The décor, designed by Gold City Murals, pays tribute to the city, its landmarks and local institutions, such as Mancini’s Bakery. The atmosphere is as bright and cheerful as the sun on the Bob’s Diner logo.
On a wall of chalkboards, artist Lauren Bosco, who lives in Kennedy Township, detailed the history of the business, which traces its roots to Florida in the 1970s.
Bob’s parents lived in Fort Lauderdale, where they were regulars at Louie’s Diner on Commercial Boulevard. (It’s still there!)
The young breakfast buff wanted to bring that same slice of Americana to Pittsburgh. Marshall’s 97-year-old aunt taught him how to cook when he was 18 and he carried that passion throughout his life.
“He was always the cook in the family,” Dané says. “When the kids were hungry I’d say, ‘Go ask your dad.’”
Before opening his first diner, Bob ran everything from a Hallmark store and a mall kiosk to a pizza parlor and a doughnut shop.
When he died, Dané thought she wouldn’t be able to juggle all of the different locations and responsibilities. But the pandemic slowed things down and allowed her to regroup.
With the help of her daughter, Claire, who’s a nutritionist, and chef Mike Frashure (formerly of the Wooden Angel restaurant in Beaver), Dané tweaked the menu, adding 30 dishes to complement traditional favorites such as liver and onions, pot roast, meatloaf and stuffed pork chops.
Folks who are sticking to their New Year’s weight loss resolution can order a Veggie Breakfast Wrap, an Impossibly Good Muffin Breakfast Sandwich made with plant-based sausage, or a California Turkey Wrap. Claire’s Veggie Benny is a lighter, healthier version of the classic Eggs Benedict.
Once Covid restrictions eased up, customers from all walks of life came flooding back to Bob’s to raise a coffee mug and enjoy the eatery’s namesake breakfast, a lasting tribute to the man who knew it was the most important meal of the day.