Trucker gives up road to cook
When I headed to Harrisville last Friday, I thought I would be listening to a talk on gas drilling.
But at Nin Nin’s diner at North Bend Golf Course, where drillers and local officials were meeting for lunch, I heard more talk about food than gas drilling.
Daran Starr walks into the dining room from the kitchen. Starr is one of the most enthusiastic people I have met in a while.
Starr opened Nin Nin’s, the grandchildren’s nickname for Starr’s late grandmother Ruth Wince of Parkersburg, on March 21 at the Harrisville golf course. Wince, described as an excellent cook, would have turned 95 years old on the day her grandson opened the diner.
Starr, a 1981 graduate of the former Harrisville High School, spent two stints as executive chef at the Blennerhassett Hotel in the 1980s, sandwiched between time as executive chef/food and beverage manager at Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
He told me he baked a butterfly cake for Dolly Parton in Tennessee.
Starr left the restaurant business to work as a truck driver for 23 years, traveling to 48 states and Canada. During this time, he ate in many restaurants and diners across the country. You might find some of his favorite dishes from his former life on the road at Nin Nin’s.
Starr said he parked his truck for good in February for the opportunity to open his restaurant in March.
“Cooking is my passion,” Starr said. He is working from sunup to sundown and loving it.
Starr’s goal is to have Guy Fieri of “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” walk through the door of Nin Nin’s.
“Guy will be here within three years,” Starr promises.
Starr said he ate many burgers from Yielky’s hamburger stand on Camden Avenue and patterns his product after the Parkersburg landmark. Sandy Lockhart at Larky’s, in the former Yielky’s location, has given Starr information on the famous burger.
Starr said he listens to his customers on what they want to eat and they seem to be responding.
“The business has been growing since the first day,” he said.
One-liners roll out of Starr’s mouth like his buttermilk pancakes from the grill.
He says: “We are great food, fast” and “plate-licking good.” And, “I’m here to feed people.”
Biscuits and sausage gravy, omelets, barbecued chicken, all-beef hot dogs, homemade soups and desserts, sandwiches, salads, along with pulled pork on weekends, are on the menu.
Nin Nin’s is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Starr promised to call me when Fieri arrives.
Mother Earth Foods is expanding its parking across from the store at 1638 19th St. in Parkersburg. Owner Dave Hawkins said he has purchased the grassy lot and house across 19th Street from Mother Earth Foods and plans to add a 16-18 vehicle concrete parking lot by the end of May. The house on the property will remain standing. The parking expansion will allow Hawkins to add two or three handicapped parking spaces next to his store. The city of Parkersburg will add a crosswalk on 19th Street from the new lot to Mother Earth Foods for the safety of customers, Hawkins said. First Lutheran Church on 19th Street can use the parking lot and has promised to help maintain the property, said Hawkins, whose business is celebrating its 38th anniversary. The parking lot also will be used for store events.
First Christian Church, 1400 Washington Ave., and the Washington Avenue Historical Association played host to their first community “Spring Fling” last Saturday with food and games for everyone. First Christian Church is involved in several community projects and fed area residents last June after the powerful storm knocked out electricity in the city. The Washington Avenue Historical Association Board and its Neighborhood Watch group meet at First Christian. The Washington Avenue residents are discussing adding a camera system to deter crime.
Contact Paul LaPann at firstname.lastname@example.org