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Sandi's Diner Red, Hot and Blue still making it fresh

Sandi Clark takes out a pan of fresh baked bread, at Sandi's Diner Red, Hot and Blue in Corpus Christi. Staff Photo

When you walk into Sandi's Diner Red, Hot and Blue, the first thing that hits you is the smell: the warm and wonderful aroma of baked bread fresh from the oven. The savory scent of yeast rolls lets you know you're in for a culinary treat, one that keeps owner Sandi Clark's customers coming back for more.

Sandi's celebrated a year in business this February, proudly serving fresh foods cooked daily including her signature sandwich rolls. Customers also come for what she declares are the best waffles in town and all-day breakfasts that rival any hearty brunch around.

"When I dump the trash at the end of the day, the trash is almost empty," Clark said proudly. "That's the biggest compliment your customers can give you — an empty plate. That happens a lot around here."

Her 1960s diner motif is rooted in American car culture. Cars have played an important part in her family's life. Her parents were married in a 1956 Chevy, while her uncle was working on his Model T two years ago when he died.

Clark drives a 1970 Monte Carlo that, at 14 feet, is too long for the parking lot that faces Ayers Street. She bought the car in perfect condition several years ago from an owner looking for just the right home for his prized possession. After meeting Clark, he ended up giving her the car.

"I feel like God gave me that car," she said. "Four years later, he gave me a restaurant, so I designed the restaurant around the car."

Photos of her car have pride of place right by the front door in the hot rod-themed diner. Parts from a 1956 Chevy (not the one her parents were married in!) are proudly displayed along with other memorabilia and reproductions from a home-decor store. What was once Boatner's Internet Cafe was transformed over three weeks into a down-home diner that has Clark out of bed and baking bread by 4:30 a.m. six days a week.

"I'm here 10 to 15 hours a day," she said. "I never thought I'd be that person, but, apparently, I am."

When not running her diner, she is helping raise her 4-year-old granddaughter, who lives with her and her husband of 32 years. Her daughter lives there, too, as a stay-at-home mom who makes jewelry. Her earrings are on sale at the diner. The pair set up a booth each month at the Corpus Christi First ArtWalk, where she is known as "the Henna Lady."

"I do Indian tattoos with henna," she said. "I like to go hang out on the beach and do tattoos when I have time. I used to do it a lot more before I opened the restaurant."

She opened Sandi's after 30 years of waiting tables for others. Now she cooks, waits tables, sets the menus and washes dishes — whatever needs to be done.

"I can't believe I made it to the one-year mark," she said. "It was tough."

She first opened with a partner who was a chef. He developed the recipes and taught her how to make them then left for a new gig in Austin. Clark has been making it happen at the Red, Hot and Blue ever since, sticking to the original commitment of using fresh ingredients and baking from scratch.

"We make everything in-house," she said. "We smoke our meats here, besides making our own bread."

Sandi's is open for breakfast and lunch, six days a week, serving from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

"You can get a hamburger at 7 a.m. or a waffle at 4 p.m.," Clark said. "You can get whatever you want all day long."

If you're not already a fan, drop on in, say congratulations and try it out for yourself.

Sandi's is located at 704 Ayers in Corpus Christi. You can find and "friend" Clark on Facebook, too, to keep up with daily specials and diner news.

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