Dreamland is a wish your stomach makes

Kevin Ramberran brings affordable, nostalgic eats to Portage Avenue

Team leader Sabrina Olson (left) and co-owner Kevin Ramberran enjoy some milkshakes at the Dreamland Diner. (Photo by Keeley Braunstein-Black)

The next time hunger strikes near west Portage Avenue, dream a little dream of meat. Hot-dog meat, that is.

Boasting ’50s retro chic with its chrome-plated furniture and checkerboard flooring, the newly opened Dreamland Diner offers an affordable and stylish blast from the past for the lunch hour.

“My brother and I own St. James Burger and Chip Co. This opportunity came up, and we were trying to figure out what would make the most sense for us in this space,” Kevin Ramberran, co-owner of Dreamland Diner, says, referring to his brother Ravi.

Combining Ravi’s love for the film and diner aesthetic of Back to the Future with Kevin’s love of all things sugary-sweet, the dream of Dreamland was conceived.

“Ten or 15 years ago, this was not an aesthetic that I think people would’ve found that appealing. Nostalgia has a weird timeline that sort of changes. These days, we can look back and appreciate the art of the ’50s, maybe removed from a lot of the context of other things,” Ramberran says.

With a creative vision mostly guided by the brother businessmen, the restaurant boasts locally manufactured furniture and plenty of accoutrements to gawk at, including a pink piano they hand-painted.

“When we bought the building, the piano came with it, but it wasn’t pink. It used to have a mural of a goat on it,” Ramberran says.

“A lot of the artwork in here is ads from the ’50s. The plane that’s in the corner was donated to us on loan from a friend of ours. The gumball machine we found just marketplace hunting. The vintage stove, too. Even the TVs were sourced through someone I work with artistically, Joshua Banman, a fantastic visual artist.”

The standout design of the place attracts not only customers, but employees, as assistant to the owners and team leader Sabrina Olson can attest.

“This place when you walk in gives you that Disneyland feel of the excitement from the pit of your stomach,” Olson says.

“I’m an old soul. I’ve been growing up with ’50s music my entire life. As soon as I had seen the place, I was like ‘this is where I need to be.’”

The brothers had two goals in mind with the vintage-vogue diner: aesthetic and accessibility. Ramberran cites the price of feeding a family, particularly amidst the current economic turbulence, as a reason for making Dreamland a space for all.

“It’s expensive to go out with kids. It’s expensive to go out if you don’t have a family, never mind. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to come here. You can spend less than $10 here very easily,” Ramberran says.

And while the Dreamland Diner is currently in a soft-launch phase with the menu “not quite finalized,” expect a grand opening very soon.

“I am hoping to have our grand opening on Monday, March 20, the later part of March,” Ramberran says.

“It’s been really tough, but the nice thing is we’ve been able to ride an incredible wave of support and hype so far. We’ve got an awesome team of people here that have been able to really give people a wicked experience when they come.”

The Dreamland Diner is located at 2615 Portage Ave.

Published in Volume 77, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 9, 2023)

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