Arthur Valentine was a car salesman turned restaurant proprietor. What he didn’t know when he shifted gears was that his line of prefabricated stainless steel diners would become a huge hit in midcentury America. Today, one of the historic structures is home to Dot’s Diner, a Bisbee fixture that opened at The Shady Dell vintage trailer park in the early 1990s.
The Dell’s original owner, Ed Smith, was on a buying trip in Los Angeles when he spotted the diner — which was built in Kansas in 1957 — decaying in someone’s backyard. He bought it and had it shipped to Bisbee.
“Ed and his partner, Rita Personett, completely restored it,” says the Dell’s current owner, Justin Luria. “There was a woman cooking at another restaurant in town, and they loved her food. They convinced her to start cooking at the diner by telling her they’d name it after her.”
The cook’s name was Dot Bozeman, and Dot’s was born with its namesake at the kitchen’s helm.
Through a few ownership changes, the restaurant’s crew served breakfast and lunch to the trailer park’s guests, as well as to people visiting from near and far. Luria ran the diner briefly after he purchased the property in 2007, but the recession shuttered Dot’s until just before the pandemic began in early 2020.
Now, on weekends, chef Mike Clements whips up breakfast, lunch and sweet treats for hordes of people who gather under the diner’s bright red and white umbrellas, sipping cocktails from the newly opened bar trailer.
“The fall before the pandemic, I’d go over and watch football at a local comedian’s house,” Luria says. “We’d all take food over. Most of it was really just bad bachelor food, but this one guy made really great jambalaya. It was Mike. He was a New Orleans Saints fan, and I was a [Philadelphia] Eagles fan. We had some bad blood between our teams, but that was some dang good jambalaya.”
The men cast their football rivalry aside and partnered to reinvigorate the diner. Now, the jambalaya is a staple on Dot’s menu, served at breakfast, with two fried eggs and salsa, and at lunch, in a burrito stuffed with cheese, salsa and chipotle sauce. Other menu standouts include the breakfast burger — made with a half-pound of Angus chuck and topped with a sage sausage patty, a fried egg, cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickles on a brioche bun or English muffin — and the fried chicken sandwich, a diner classic served either standard or spicy.
At press time, Dot’s is open Fridays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., but with the addition of the bar, Luria hopes to expand the diner’s service into the evenings.
“Bisbee’s a small town, but we have a really good culinary scene,” he says. “You can get Vietnamese cuisine, French food, American fusion, amazing wood-fired pizza. And we have great influences — just look how close we are to Mexico and those flavors. I think this town has the potential to be a really great foodie spot.”
1 Old Douglas Road