Eat, Play, Live

Baby’s Burgers and Shakes continues to thrive in changing downtown

Baby’s Burgers and Shakes in State College on May 23, 2016.
Baby’s Burgers and Shakes in State College on May 23, 2016. Centre Daily Times, file

Editor’s note: This story is part of the Eat, Play, Live special section.

Stepping into Baby’s Burgers and Shakes restaurant in State College is like stepping back in time.

And that’s not only because of the 1950s theme, though that is the celebrated charm of the business. Baby’s opened in 1987, and, according to the employees, it hasn’t changed much since then.

“We did some remodeling about seven years ago when we put the booths in,” general manager Tassy Lopez said, “but the shop itself really hasn’t changed in all that time.”

Described by assistant manager Kevin Selbers as a “fun place,” Baby’s offers the charm of a ’50s diner with servers in throwback attire, old-fashioned food and retro decor. Jukeboxes adorn each booth, and employees wear titles like “soda jerk” with pride.

The motto of the store is “Eat and get out!” Lopez said, a play on the slang of the time. But sometimes, the restaurant becomes so full, the motto becomes a rule.

“It’s very family oriented, but we have a strong student clientele too,” Selbers said, particularly on football weekends.

While the decor hasn’t changed, the menu has, Lopez said, saying Baby’s now offers more food than ever before. The restaurant prides itself on its old-fashioned offerings and homemade cooking.

“The mac and cheese is all homemade every day,” she said. “We don’t use frozen burger patties either. Every day, those patties are weighed and shaped by hand.”

Baby’s offers an extensive menu, Selbers said, considering it’s just a diner. The restaurant is known for its burgers — original, double decker or served with fries — but also offers a number of specialty burgers, such as the Craz-E-Burger, served on a grilled glazed doughnut.

The restaurant has also expanded into more traditional diner fare, Lopez said, saying it’s the only place in downtown State College where you can get a fried chicken dinner. Other diner classics include the aforementioned homemade mac and cheese, liver and onions and an open-face meatloaf sandwich.

Specials are offered every day, including half-priced milkshakes on Monday, two free kids meals with an adult meal on Tuesdays or a dollar off specialty burgers after 4 p.m. on Sunday.

The restaurant also survived the ever-changing downtown scene, Selbers said. While it used to be surrounded by parking lots and movie theaters, these days, the diner is in strong competition with the other eateries in the downtown area.

“We had to fight to get our business back,” he said. “A lot changed for a while.”

But Baby’s thrived, and, according to Lopez, continues to beat expectations.

“We’re surviving and surpassing every year,” she said. “That’s hard to say in the restaurant business — that we’ve been consistently up every year.”

Baby’s is located at 131 S. Garner St. in State College and is typically open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The diner has adopted adjusted hours for part of the summer — it is now open until 8 p.m. — but Lopez said longer hours are tentatively set to return by July.

A full menu of items, as well as specials, can be found on the Baby’s website at www. babysburgers.com.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews

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