Dennis Fogg will close Uncle Andy’s Diner in South Portland at the end of May. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Uncle Andy’s Diner in South Portland, which has twice appeared on a Food Network makeover show, is closing for good after 66 years in business, its owners unable to keep it financially afloat during the pandemic.

Owner and cook Dennis Fogg said Friday he’ll keep the diner open until the end of May for takeout. He said being closed to sit-down customers for nearly two months has devastated his business, since the diner is mostly a breakfast and lunch place known for pancakes and hash and eggs.

“People don’t really think of breakfast food as takeout except for Dunkin’ Donuts,” said Fogg, 57, who has owned the diner and run it with his family for 17 years. “We really depend on volume. We’ve always been able to just get by, but now we can’t.”

Uncle Andy’s Diner opened in 1954 on Ocean Street across from Mill Creek Park, not far from City Hall. It was predated by a separate Uncle Andy’s Bakery, located next door, which closed in 1998. The diner is known for its casual and family-friendly atmosphere, its horseshoe-shaped counters and Fogg’s interactions with customers. Besides running the diner, he’s a professional comedian who has been known to tell jokes at the diner, do magic for kids, and create pancakes shaped like almost anything a kid asks for – from dinosaurs and elephants to spring scenes with flowers and butterflies.

“Dennis and everyone there is just super family friendly. Going there is like going into a little comfort nook,” said Ashley Daniels, 36, of South Portland, who grew up going to the diner and now takes her two children there. “It’s really the loss of a landmark.”

Uncle Andy’s closure illustrates the bleak condition facing restaurants all around America. In a letter to Congress in April, the National Restaurant Association estimated that as many as 15 percent of all restaurants in the country could close permanently within two weeks without more federal help. Some of the restaurants in Maine that have already met that fate include The Starlight Cafe in Bath, Benchwarmers Sports Pub in Brunswick, Farm to Coast Mobile Kitchen in Biddeford and Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery in South Portland. Arabica Coffee closed its Commercial Street location but remains open as a business, with another location on Free Street.


Running Uncle Andy’s has never been easy, with Fogg, his wife and adult children all working there to keep it going. About seven years ago, Fogg’s four adult children contacted the Food Network show “Restaurant Impossible” to see if star host Robert Irvine could come give the diner a makeover and maybe boost business.

Dennis Fogg talks with two customers on March 17. Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Irvine came to Uncle Andy’s with a film crew in 2014 and improved some of the diner’s methods. Irvine also changed the color scheme from blue and white, with a checkered tile floor, to green and yellow. The makeover included a wall with windows and awnings to separate the open grill area from the diners. But Fogg had to fight Irvine to keep the horseshoe-shaped counters and his practice of making custom pancakes. Overall, Fogg said, the changes made by the show, and the exposure, did help business. The show came back last September to film a follow-up episode, to show viewers how the diner was doing since the make-over.

Michelle Black of South Portland said she was sad to find out about the closing of Uncle Andy’s Friday, and said she’ll miss the “classic diner food” and fun atmosphere, especially Fogg’s magic tricks and humor. She said she and her husband have ordered takeout from Uncle Andy’s recently, and hoped the place would make it through the tough times.

“It’s really such an iconic place, and it really stinks they have to close,” said Black, 43.

Fogg said he decided to close at the end of May to avoid going into major debt, as he feels his sit-down business probably wouldn’t return to its normal level for six or seven months, and he can’t last that long. Fogg leases the space the diner is located in. He’s posting daily specials on Facebook.

Fogg said he’s not sure what he’ll do next but plans to spend time with his five grandchildren this summer, maybe watching them while their parents – his children – scramble to find new jobs for themselves.

“We didn’t want to dig a hole we couldn’t get out of. If we close now, we can do it on our terms,” Fogg said.

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