Venezuelan family serves up diner classics in Noblesville
By Mark Ambrogi
Francisco Guzman wants everyone to experience what he does during a family meal.
“We can bring families in and have the same experience that we have when we have dinner,” Guzman said. “The main focus around this is we wanted to get back to our roots.”
Guzman, 26, and his parents, Carlos Prado, 46, and wife Maria, 43, recently opened Harbour Town Diner on 5855 E. 211th St., in Noblesville. Carlos is his stepfather, but Guzman considers him his dad because he raised him. They moved to the United States from Venezuela when Guzman was 3 years old.
“I kind of relate it to the American story,” Guzman said. “They wanted to work hard, started at McDonald’s, started newspaper routes, worked his way up to owning the pizza place at United Airlines (maintenance center) before the center closed and then they’ve been doing little investments.”
Guzman, who graduated from Hamilton Southeastern and Wabash College, has been working as a mortgage broker for the past five years.
“But the main force of my attention is this (diner) right now,” Guzman said.
The general manager is Carlos Paredes, who Guzman has known for years.
“They were one of the only Venezuelan families around so we congregated,” Guzman said.
The cook, Richard Ibanez, also is Venezuelan and a family friend. Guzman learned about the spot because Ibanez worked at the restaurant, Friends and Co., that had previously leased the current location of the diner.
Guzman lives in Carmel and his parents live in Fishers.
He said the menu’s inspiration comes from many Greek-owned diners on the East Coast that feature gyros and some traditional Greek dishes.
“I’m trying to give it the same feel with a little twist,” said Guzman, whose restaurant has a beer and wine license. “We wanted to have a diner, so we can hit a large majority of the market, but at the same time we want to put in some of our staples. The Venezuelan empanadas are one of the big ones. We have a Venezuelan burger, which is actually a street vendor burger in Caracas, Venezuela.”
That burger is made with chicken, ham, pepper jack cheese, fried egg, avocado and potato sticks. His mother Maria’s own recipe for sauce, called HT sauce, is added. Guzman said they plan to start with weekly Venezuelan and then maybe move to daily dishes. Maria said one of her other specialties is her homemade recipe for biscuits and gravy.
After United Airlines closed the maintenance center, Carlos went to work for a trucking company. Maria worked as a nanny and cook for a family that had a catering business, learning many of recipes.
Carlos said it is nice to have restaurant of their own and see how they can develop the business.
“It’s helping the community because we’re providing work for people that live in the community,” he said.
Guzman said family members try to synchronize so one of them is at the restaurant at all times.
“I feel if we’re not here service can start to go by the wayside,” he said.
Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear said it’s a welcome addition to Morse Reservoir area.
“This corner has had its ups and downs, but the diner will do really well,” said Ditslear, adding the family’s experience in the food business is a plus.
Ditslear visited and sampled some dishes during the grand opening ribbon cutting on July 11. The restaurant had its ‘soft opening’ on June 4.
“We’ve worked a lot on word of mouth at the start,” said Guzman, who is working to market the restaurant through social media. “I worked at one my father’s best friend’s pizzeria from the time I was 16 until I went to college. I worked at Papa Murphy’s. But my main experience is sales.”
Guzman’s eventual goal is for the restaurant to become a local favorite.
“I want to strive to be like Matteo’s or Barley Island, where it’s a staple of Noblesville,” Guzman said. “They have their fingers to the pulse of the community and they’re able to provide services besides the food like charity.”
Harbour Town Diner
Address: 5855 E. 211th St., Suite 11, Noblesville
Hours: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Sunday brunch is expected to be added.
Info: The restaurant can be found on Facebook as Harbour Town Diner and on Twitter @HTDiner. The website, HTdiner.com, is under construction.