Bob’s in

After 21 years, B.O.B.’s Diner is still going strong — with less gluten

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Caitlin Rockett
B.O.B.'s Diner on a Tuesday afternoon.

If you’re one of the lucky ones, Bob will be in when you are.

Bob Thiele is the owner of B.O.B.’s Diner in Louisville. He’s not in the shop as much these days since his son Trevor has mostly taken over the day-to-day operations of the family business, but every now and then, Bob’s in the house.

I wasn’t so lucky when I dropped by the diner for lunch about a week ago, but I hit pay dirt when I called back a few days later.

“You’re one of the lucky ones,” an employee informed me. “Bob’s in.”

B.O.B’s Diner has been a fixture in Louisville since October 1996, taking over the space formerly known as Kevin’s. Yes, B.O.B’s is named after Thiele, but the periods in between the letters give the impression there’s something more to the name.

Truth is, there is and there isn’t.

“The long story — the real story — is when my kids were little, we used to go to Kevin’s. So when we decided to start a restaurant, we decided to call it Bob’s. My niece suggested we put periods in it.”

And so they did. But there wasn’t any deeper meaning behind it — at least not at first.

“My wife started saying, ‘Better On a Bun,’ or ‘Best Of Bob’s Sandwiches,” he says. And for the past 20 years “there’s not a day that goes by that someone doesn’t ask what it stands for.”

B.O.B’s is the quintessential American diner, with its black and white checkered floor, window-lined front wall, counter and table seating with the red vinyl chairs flecked with sparkles. But B.O.B’s wasn’t always a recreation of Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.”

About six years ago, flooding from a burst pipe forced Thiele to renovate the diner, resulting in the counter seating and retro chairs.

Opportunity often disguises itself as misfortune.

Thiele’s worked in the food service industry his whole life, so opening a diner was a no-brainer for the Old Town Louisville resident. When B.O.B’s first opened, it was a five-table operation serving “basically just sandwiches.”

“Then we’d grab some more space and evolved into a diner doing full breakfasts,” Thiele says. “That’s our big bread and butter now. We do a lot of breakfasts.”

Everyday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. B.O.B’s is serving up a smattering of American breakfast delights: biscuits and gravy, bacon and eggs, cornbeef hash, chicken fried steak, pancakes, French toast and omelets. For lunch you can build your own burger or enjoy one of B.O.B’s burger creations, like the breakfast burger topped with bacon and a fried egg. There are classic diner sandwiches like the turkey club, French dip and reuben, but you can also grab a blackened salmon sandwich or a veggie wrap. Salads are a viable option too.

About five years ago, Thiele’s son Trevor joined his dad at the diner with a few ideas for some changes.

“He wanted to go with gluten-free stuff,” Thiele says. “So we came up with how to make gravy and green chili gluten free — which we sell a lot of, all gluten free. Now we use all natural Boar’s Head (deli meats and cheeses), Red Bird chicken. He improved us that way. I was the old style: ‘We’ll just do a burger,’” he says with a laugh.

These days Thiele says his son is “basically running the place now.” 

“I don’t wanna brag too much on him, but he’s got a great personality, and he’s a people person and he really does it well.”

From the diner’s windows over the past 21 years, Thiele has watched Louisville blossom into the vibrant town it is today.

“It’s just nice seeing the changes that have come through town,” he says. “It’s been a good 20 years because we hit a period there back in the early ’90s when you could have shot a cannon off on Main Street and not hit a person. It’s really been revitalized.”

B.O.B.’s Diner. 820 Main St., Suite 100, Louisville, 303-665-1056.