Restaurant owners in Anchorage have had a hard go at it this year with various city mandates that have shuttered in-person dining and severely limited customers, but Kriner’s Diner is still finding a way to give back to the community this Thanksgiving.
Andy Kriner, who owns Kriner’s Diner with his wife Norann, is holding the eighth annual free Thanksgiving Day meal give away on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Unlike past years, the 2020 event won’t be a sit-down affair in the diner. Due to a city mandate that restricts dining to 50% capacity, the meal will be handed out to-go.
“Usually we serve about 350 people in three hours,” Andy Kriner said of past years. “I don’t know what’s going to happen this year. We’re doing it all to go just because we’re trying not to get in trouble. We’re just going to have a line of cars outside and we’re going to take food out to people in to-go containers.”
Everyone who shows up in person will get a complete meal. As in past years, Kriner will cook up 14 turkeys donated by CISCO. Add to that 30 dinner rolls donated by Europa Bakery. The entire meal will include turkey, mash potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, dinner roll and a slice of pumpkin pie.
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“I usually spend about a $1,000 bucks on groceries, but you know, to be able to feed that many people for a $1,000 bucks is like Jesus with five fish and five loaves of bread,” Kiner said. “I mean, I feel pretty good about it.”
The idea behind the Thanksgiving Day meals originated when Kriner and his family were lounging about after a big meal eight or nine years ago.
It seems like the last few years, there’s just people who need a free meal,” Kriner said. “I want people to know that it doesn’t cost anything.”
“We were sitting around after Thanksgiving dinner and my brother Sam and my son Drew said, ‘You know, we do this every year. We all eat too much, and we have to clean up this big mess,” and my son says, ‘Why don’t we do something at the Diner – some kind of charity thing on Thanksgiving?’ And that’s how it was born.”
Any donations derived from the event will go towards The Children’s Lunchbox program operated by Beans Café to provide meals for at-risk children and families in Anchorage.
“We usually collect about $2,500 in donations that day, but I don’t like to stress that because honestly it seems like the last few years, there’s just people who need a free meal,” Kriner said. “I want people to know that it doesn’t cost anything – especially this year.”
Earlier this summer Kriner’s Diner became a rallying point for Anchorage residents who opposed former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s shutdown on all in-person dining due to COVID concerns. Kriner kept his all-American diner open despite the ban. The restaurant was packed for the better part of a week before the city threatened to fine him $15,000 a day through a court order.
Like many Anchorage residents, Kriner opposed the restaurant restrictions as a government overstep that was destroying local businesses. Under current emergency orders restaurants are still limited to 50% capacity indoors.
Kriner said business is still down but he’s making it through government loans.
“It’s slow. We’re down about 30%, but financially we’re doing all right with loans,” he said. “I’m going to keep fighting. You just can’t give up.”
Kriner is giving his employees the day off, but those who stop by the diner for a meal on Thanksgiving will be met by multiple generations of the Kriner clan – Andy, his wife Norann and their extended family will all serve up meals.
“That’s one way to be busy,” he said. “Giving away free food – it works almost every time.”