North Apollo vintage stainless steel Yak Diner hits the road to move to a new home
There’s more than homemade meatloaf and mashed potatoes to keep the old stainless steel Yak Diner at North Apollo.
The O’Mahony restaurant built in 1955 is a mobile prefabricated building, and it must go.
The restaurant’s new owners will hook the Yak onto a tractor-trailer on Monday to move it just a third of a mile down River Road. Her new home is next door to another mid-20th century icon, Lackey’s Dairy Queen.
The Yak, formerly the Yakkitty Yak, has been a mainstay of River Road for nearly three decades, attracting such loyal clientele and workers that the restaurant remained open during the covid-19 pandemic when other small restaurants faltered.
When the transfer of ownership closed the doors of the Yak on November 30, customers still came.
“We were tearing up the lobby of the restaurant and people were stopping to ask if they could come in and eat,” said Toni Taylor, 42, of Kiski Township, one of the new owners.
Taylor, who has worked with adults with disabilities for 21 years, and her mother, Arlene (Dolly) McCoy of North Apollo, a longtime senior designer at Siemens, recently acquired the restaurant to save and restore the popular restaurant.
“We want to make it a destination restaurant with an appeal,” Taylor said.
A decision had to be made. The restaurant’s lease was over and the longtime owner wanted to retire, Taylor said.
“Instead of bulldozing it, my mom and I thought we were going to give it a whirl,” she said.
The time is right and the opportunity is here, they said.
“My mother is preparing to retire. I am ready for a career change. And everyone is going to need to eat, ”she said.
It is no coincidence that the new owners are relocating the restaurant next to Lackey’s Dairy Queen at 2130 River Road. McCoy’s parents, Paul and Bea Lackey, bought the land and opened the DQ in 1955. It is still in business and is currently owned by a former employee, Matt Spiers.
Leases will no longer be an issue for the restaurant, Taylor said.
McCoy is a longtime fan of the restaurant, securing the Yak’s recognition as a historic place by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 2019.
“There aren’t many diners left by the 1950s roadside. They’re rare,” McCoy said.
The closest old-fashioned stainless steel restaurant is in Blairsville, about 25 miles away, she said.
Restoration plans are underway for the restaurant, including installing a new roof and renovating the kitchen and bathrooms, Taylor said.
“We have a lot of stainless steel to polish,” she said.
Structurally, the restaurant turned out to be in good condition and sturdy when 16 wheels were temporarily attached for its short trip ahead.
“Our movers lifted it up and it seated perfectly on the wheels,” Taylor said.
They plan to reopen as Dolly’s Diner in the spring. For more information, visit their Facebook page. Another generation will join in, including Taylor’s daughters Emma and Hannah.