RICHMOND, Va. — For Yvonne Darnell, Tuesday’s vice presidential debate is all about her hometown favorite. She has been serving Tim Kaine breakfast at the City Diner for almost nine years. So it is no question for her whose side she will be on during the debate.
“Everybody wants to see him do well,” Darnell said. “It’s always like the hometown guy. You know you want to see him rise up. It’s exciting. We’re just counting down the days now, and see what comes and happens.”
Kaine has been a regular at City Diner on West Broad Street for years, and according to the staff there he has lived up to his reputation for being a man who doesn’t let his political success get to his head.
Waitress Susie Joynes, who has served Kaine for 13 years, said that he is like any other customer despite his successful political career as mayor, governor and U.S. senator. Before becoming Hillary Clinton’s running mate, City Diner was Kaine’s regular choice for breakfast on Tuesday mornings.
On Tuesday evening, the diner staff will be crossing their finger for Kaine as he debates Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence at Longwood University in Farmville.
“He’s a super guy. Very down to earth,” Joynes said. “What you see is what you get. He’s real. He comes in here and he’s just a regular guy. He’s super nice and his family is great.”
When he isn’t busy running for vice president, Kaine typically meets with the same group of friends for his weekly City Diner breakfast, hanging around after eating for an hour or so to have some casual conversations.
“He just comes in. He chills with his neighbors. It’s the same group for the last 10 or 11 years that have been coming in here, and they’re friendly and good guys. They’re all local guys, and you know, they keep him grounded,” said Darnell.
As for ordering his meal, Kaine usually sticks to the basics and knows what he likes.
“He gets coffee, eggs, bacon, toast, you know. Sometimes apples, sometimes home fries,” said Darnell. “But he’s pretty much a creature of habit.”
Since word has gotten out about Kaine’s weekly breakfast spot, the City Diner staff has noticed that an increasing number of Richmonders come by to catch a glimpse of him.
“Now people come here because he comes here, and now we’ve become popular,” Joynes said.
Even shortly after Clinton picked him as her running mate, Kaine came by the diner as usual to have breakfast with his friends.
“Everybody gave him a standing ovation when he came in, so it was really sweet, because people do recognize him, and recognize him as a local,” Darnell said.
Joynes said that all of Richmond would share in the excitement, not just those who are used to seeing him at the diner, if Kaine became vice president.
“It would be pretty cool and very exciting for everybody in Richmond, because everybody knows him,” Joynes said. “He’s just a local guy.”
The only thing that changed in Kaine’s diner visits since his vice presidential nomination, besides the frequency of them, is the amount of security. During his time as governor and senator, there were typically only two security guards that kept an eye on him during breakfast at the diner, said Joynes.
But during Kaine’s two visits as a vice presidential candidate, the diner had to adjust to secret service agents at nearly every door in the restaurant, added Joynes.
“The last time he came in, it was, like, four or five black SUVs pulled up out front,” said Joynes. “And it’s all very like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ Because we know him as Tim. We don’t even call him Mr. Kaine or anything. It was kind of crazy.”
Despite his busy schedule, there’s always a chance that Kaine will stop by the City Diner to grab a familiar bite to eat. If he does, it will be a nice treat for the diner staff.
“Maybe Tim will be in tomorrow,” Darnell said on Monday. “We’ll see, since he’s in town. We look forward to that.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: WTVR.com has partnered with the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project at VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students from the project reported this story.