Cheryl Griffin was raised in the kitchens of parents’ family-owned restaurants. Now she’s bringing that same home-cooked feel to Emporia.
Griff’s Diner, located at 20 Commercial St., is the newest spot for comfort food to satisfy a craving for home cooked foods for a family night out or to stop in for a hearty breakfast.
“I have so much invested in it, as far as time and love,” Griffin said. “It’s a sweet, small town diner that holds 30 people. I just love it.”
Griff’s Diner is owned by Griffin and her husband, Bob. The couple has lived in Emporia for more than 40 years. The diner was formerly the home of Billy Bob’s BBQ, where the Griffins’ daughter, Rhiannon Zuniga, loved working for Bob Cinelli. When Cinelli wanted to sell, the Griffins saw an opportunity for their daughter to keep working as a cook and purchased the restaurant in June 2020.
In April 2021, it officially became Griff’s with bierocks, biscuits and gravy, chicken noodles and mashed potatoes and all types of comfort foods you expect to be made in a Southern kitchen.
Cheryl Griffin said she has fond memories of her dad’s restaurant, Kenny’s Cafe in Pleasant Hill, Mo. He was a cook in the army; a master sergeant. She remembers having a mark on the back door of the restaurant, where the hungry could come and eat her dad’s homemade navy beans, ham and cornbread.
“Dad turned us loose in the kitchen any time we wanted to cook, but he always supervised,” she said. “So I picked up a lot of things from him. Basically, the only thing I can remember picking up from mom was fried chicken and fried pork chops. By the time I was 16 or 17, I was just experimenting on my own with different foods and recipes. They were both very, very good cooks.”
While Cheryl Griffin does most of the cooking, Bob Griffin likes the challenge of doing repairs at the restaurant.
“We love the people, we love Emporia and we want to offer them home; just the feeling of home,” Cheryl Griffin said. “When someone comes in here, we want them to feel like they’ve come home to grandma’s or mom’s kitchen.”
And so far, that’s been the response.
“We had a young man come in and he said, ‘I’ll take the special’ and so I carried it out to him and he said ‘Oh my gosh, I feel like I went to my grandmother’s house and sat down at her table,’” Cheryl Griffin said. “’And I said, ‘Wonderful,’ and he turned into a regular.”
The Griffins rely on a small, but dedicated staff. Zuniga and Debi Leon are cooks during breakfast, and their grandson, Mitchell Herring, works part-time with waitress Kendra Mendoza.
Working in the restaurant industry is rewarding, and doesn’t come without its challenges.
The Griffins count their blessings as the rewards of owning a restaurant are plenty. Young people can catch up over a burger basket, and the ‘Baby Boomer’ crowd can have a meal that reminds them of mom’s home cooking. The Griffins meet challenges with faith and hard work.
“It’s busy constantly and you never know who’s going to come in or how many will come in,” Bob Griffin said. “It makes it difficult knowing how much food to prepare because we make it fresh.”
The Griffins shop local and believe in keeping things within their control, such as shopping in Emporia.
“We want to be a positive force in Emporia,” Cheryl Griffin said. “To serve people — maybe they are grouchy and tired — but to leave with a smile on their face and full belly. We care about the people and keep our prices where people can afford to come in.”
Griff’s is open for dine-in or carry out from 6 - 10 a.m. and 4 - 8 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday