A Blast from the Past: Little Anthony’s Diner

Vismaya and Riley M.F.
December 2, 2022


It’s a warm afternoon and we’re craving something sweet. Do we go to a candy shop or an ice cream shop? In the evening we are searching for some entertainment to fill my night, do we go see a movie?

If you have ever had an experience at Little Anthony’s Diner, you know that what we are craving can all be met by these conjoined places. They provide entertainment on both sides of the building and, plus, they have insane milkshakes that will kill any sweet tooth craving.

As you walk up to Little Anthony’s Diner, you already feel like you are getting hit by a blast from the past. The vintage exterior was filled with  Volkswagon bugs and Chevrolet trucks from the 50s. The checkered steps up to the red double doors invite you in as you crave the smell of ice cream then followed by an assortment of burgers, pizza, sandwiches, and fries. As we walked in, we were greeted by a kind lady that asked us where we would like to be seated throughout this 150-seat diner while shimmying down to our table with “Ain’t No Mountain High” being played in the background.

Shortly after our waitress, Vanessa came over and introduced herself. She talked us through the menu and gave us recommendations based on the popular menu items such as various milkshakes, “Grandma Tony’s Pizza”, the patty melt, chicken fried steak, the “Yellow Brick Road Burger”  which consists of a burger with mac and cheese, shredded cheese, and nacho cheese, and so many more delicious options. She wrote her name on the paper covering the table for us so we would not forget it, and could use it if we needed to call her over by any means.

Did somebody say milkshakes?

As we both eagerly scoured the menu, we found the “Big Bopper Milkshakes” and were amazed by how exuberant these appeared to be. We ordered two Big Bopper milkshakes – the “Donut Be Cruel” and the “I want S’more Rama Lama Ding Dong Shake” and they came to the table with sparklers lit and big displays of treats on top. The “Donut Be Cruel” was topped with whipped cream and delicious chocolate syrup and garnished with a full-sized donut, donut holes, a blue frosted rim, and skittles.   Second, a chocolate wonderland of warm fudge, chocolate shell, graham crackers, toasted marshmallows, whipped cream, oreo crumbles, and a moon pie was placed on top of the “I want S’more Rama Lama Ding Dong Shake”.

They were some of the best milkshakes we have had in a long time. Even the other customers of this diner were friendly and welcoming. One lady came up to us amazed by the presentation of these concoctions. She exclaimed “What kind of delicious treats are these?” and we showed her the menu and where to find these “Big Bopper Milkshakes”.  She asked if she could take a picture of them and take a picture of us with the milkshakes as well! We chatted about what attracted us to this delicious diner and our article in the making for Takes on Tuscon about this place.

We sat there and enjoyed our milkshakes over music from the decades sung by artists from the 50s to 80s  such as Marvine Gaye, Martha Reeves, and the Vandellas, Four Tops, The Miracles, and Edwin Starr playing in the background of our conversation.

Wait.. there’s more?!

A room filled with pinball machines, basketball games, claw machines, gumball machines, and other arcade games is also located inside the diner. This, in our opinion, significantly enhanced the effect of a diner with a 1950s motif. In addition to standard arcade games, there were also recreations of vintage games like “Feed Big Bertha,” which for some people evokes strong feelings of nostalgia.

This restaurant not only provides a lively atmosphere for breakfast, lunch, supper, or dessert, but it also hosts performances by actors that play historical figures like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Olivia Newton-John also known as Sandy from the beloved musical Grease. On Fridays, from 8 to 10, and on Saturdays, from 6 to 9, these performances take place. For entertainment and performance, while dining in the restaurant, a rock and roll trio of three different bands performs on Friday nights. We will definitely have to come back to see a musical performance from these celebrities!

Behind the scenes of the magic

After meeting with the creator of the diner, Tony Terry, we were able to learn the history of the diner and the theater as well as some of his other creations. In connection to the diner and theater, Tony also owns a pizza company: “Grandma Tony’s Pizza and Wings”, a print shop, and a costume shop. He decided to open the print and costume shops in connection to the theater because he saw himself needing mass amounts of those products to help bring the theater to life. The diner was named after Tony himself. Tony explained to us, “my name’s Anthony, so it’s Little Anthony’s because I’m little and I had a cook at my other restaurant that used to say – Little Anthony is on the warpath”. This is perfectly tied into the name of a famous group from the 50s known as “Little Anthony ” leading to the perfect name for this diner along with the logo of the diner is a 45 record designed by a friend of Tony’s.

After we received the full experience of the diner, Tony took us through the theater that is linked to his restaurant by a hallway. This as well was a blast from the past and was full of tables covered by blue and white checkered tablecloths and wooden chairs facing the stage. The walls are covered with memorabilia and pictures that really show the history that resides inside.

“Everything I do is family-oriented,” Tony declared. He wants this to be “a place for families”.  In order to preserve a welcoming atmosphere for everyone, he maintains this dynamic throughout the theater and the restaurant. Overall, the environment that these places and the staff bring really makes you feel like you are taking a trip back in time. As Tony selects the staff for the diner, he wants the best of the best. “If somebody comes in and they’re great, we hire them – whether we have a job or not – we hire them – I want the best – especially in the theater business.” Tony always says “Let’s just get better a little bit every day” as a means of encouraging employees to consistently be the best of the best in order to help the industry as a whole continues to flourish.

All people really need to experience Little Anthony’s Diner. Grab a tasty milkshake as we did, or get a meal. You’ll be transported back in time and given the impression that you’re in a movie at the diner. We had a fantastic time, and we recommend it to everyone!


Riley Farris and Vismaya Hoehn are freshmen at the University of Arizona.