Even the locals will concede, there’s not much in Dana, which has a population of 171, no state highway, bank or gas station.
But there is good food.
The Gold Dust Diner, just two doors down from the Dana Post Office, has always intrigued me, operating out of such a small village. There must be something good served up there to be a destination for residents in surrounding communities.
The biscuits and gravy are a good place to start. The gravy is made with plentiful bites of sausage and lots of pepper flavor. The half order ($3.75) comes with two biscuits – making it a hearty dish in its own right.
The Texan omelet is made with bacon, sausage or ham and loads of cheese. The three-egg omelet has cheese layered both inside and on top, and makes a great order for cheese lovers. It is served with toast and hash browns or American fries for $6.75.
The diner serves lunch and dinner specials daily – this day’s special happened to be rib-eye with noodle soup and a cheeseburger ($7).
I’d call rib-eye beef with noodle soup a Hamburger Helper on steroids, and that’s a compliment. The soup features wide noodles in a thick sauce with wonderful bites of rib-eye beef and mushrooms. The fact that the beef is taken from a marbled steak adds much more flavor. I could eat this forever.
The beef patty for the burger was a thin one, but with a sizable diameter. The onion was nice and fresh.
Be prepared when you visit. The restaurant only takes cash or good checks. They don’t accept cards, and the closest ATM is in Minonk (to the south) or Wenona (to the north) – about a 15-minute drive either way.
Walking into the Gold Dust Diner, you get the warm feeling that it’s a comfortable meeting place for locals. Customers literally are kicked back in their seats, as they talk with each other across the dining room about gas prices and other current events while the server never lets their coffee cups go empty. The newspaper sits on top of the counter for anyone to grab.
If you’ve been in this type of small-town diner before, you will be nodding your head as you read. That’s exactly what to expect at the Gold Dust Diner.
The menu also has fried chicken, several hot sandwiches, appetizers such as onion rings or corn fritters, and a Fridays-only fried fish dinner, including catfish. You can dine in or carry out the meals.
There’s not going to be a lot of surprises here; but you can expect a good, hearty, homemade meal in a comfortable setting.
• The Mystery Diner is an employee at Shaw Media. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff when ordering or picking up the food. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a story.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Gold Dust Diner
WHERE: 109 S. Main St., Dana