FOLSOM - People driving in a rural area and coming upon the Harley Dawn Diner might naturally think they've found where bikers breakfast at daybreak.
"The different ideas people come in and think of are funny," said co-owner April Emmons. "Of course, the motorcycle idea pops up first."
And after all, her husband, co-owner and chef, David Emmons, does ride a Harley-Davidson Springer Softail to work, weather permitting.
But the couple named their diner in 1994 after their then 6-month-old daughter, Harley Dawn Emmons. She now waitresses at the diner, will be 17 next month, and is saving money to play saxophone on a three-week European tour with the American Music Association, April said.
The name fits the character of the Harley Dawn Diner, on the Black Horse Pike in Folsom, with its focus on sizable portions of quality homemade American food.
To realize their "simply delicious" goal, the Emmonses upgraded their meat and seafood sourcing. Salmon, for example, comes from Scotland, and only Black Angus beef is used - even for burgers, and always fresh, never frozen, April said.
In the summer, fruits and vegetables are sourced locally to the extent possible, such as blueberries from nearby Hammonton.
Another distinction is taking homemade a little further than most diners, to soups, breads and desserts good enough to develop a base of take-out fans.
The most popular soup is crab and asparagus bisque, she said, which is offered every third Friday. Others in that special rotation include New England and Manhattan clam chowders.
But every day there are two homemade soups, and David Emmons regularly makes 14 kinds of soup in all, she said, including split pea, beef barley, turkey noodle and a popular cream of potato.
Specialty breads, served with meals and available by the loaf, include pumpkin bread, cranberry orange bread and apple walnut bread. "People have their favorites and will call and ask, what's the bread today?" April said.
Have your bread at the diner, though, and you can enjoy it with favorites such as the pound pork porterhouse, a grilled steak-like feast that's leaner than beef, she said.
Homemade desserts include key lime pie, chocolate mousse, N.Y. style cheesecake and carrot cake, as well as the usual cakes and fruit pies.
David Emmons has spent his career perfecting the diner experience, starting in the business as a teenage dishwasher at the Vincentown Diner and working many years at the Country Club Diner in Voorhees.
Oddly enough, the steel shell and front facade of the Harley Dawn Diner are from the original Vincentown Diner before it was remodeled, April said.
Her background is as far from diners as his is dialed in. She was a structural engineer, working in a company's bridge department, when she took a year off to help him start the diner.
April Emmons went back to engineering for a year, but found that running the diner was a better fit with raising a young child.
Her background has helped with the diner's latest specialty: homemade electricity.
For two years, she said, she studied solar energy and how it could work for the diner, using parts of her engineering skills untouched since her days at Drexel University.
The result is a new 95 kilowatt, ground-based array of 400 solar panels, sized to handle 100 percent of the diner's substantial electricity needs. She conservatively estimates the pollution-reducing system will pay for itself within four years.
The next project will be offering the diner's full menu (as well as breads, quarts of soup and whole pies and cakes) online for pickup. That should happen in the spring, she said.
The food may be old-fashioned, but the technology is up to date at the Harley Dawn Diner.
Contact Kevin Post:
Harley Dawn Diner
Location: 1402 Black Horse Pike, Folsom
Owners: David, 49, and April, 46, Emmons, of Franklin Township
Employees: 12 to 15, seasonally