It's glistening white, pristine and spacious.

Eat in Ohakune in Clyde St, owned and run by Dawn Harallambi, is a New York-style diner/takeaway.

She is adamant it is not a cafe.

"Definitely not. There is no cabinet food and people are not encouraged to sit down and dine for ages."


Her New York-inspired menu is the result of her growing up in Jamestown in New York state.

Of Sicilian heritage, Dawn headed for New Zealand 21 years ago, never intending to stay.

"It was just a quick holiday ... but love stepped in."

She met former Exponents drummer Michael Harrallambi after a concert in Ohakune.

"That was it. I never went back home."

Though she had a degree in English literature, there was nowhere for her to work in the Ruapehu district except in the hospitality industry.

"And we had decided to stay in Ohakune. We love it here, we could never leave."

She sold her first cafe, Utopia, next door to Eat, a year ago.

"I'm so into fresh, fast food now I don't like anything that sits around for hours."

Even though people have complained that Eat is not child-friendly because of the long tables and tall white stools, Dawn is not bothered.

"This is how it is and this is how it is; I'm not changing it ... "

The menu includes delicious burritos, a Philly cheese steak and a New York grilled cheese sandwich and other appealing fresh fare.

Growers throughout the district deliver fresh produce on the day and much of it has been organically grown.

Dawn's standards are high, so high she works solo seven days a week except for her barista, who makes coffee and serves.

There was a young chef who would work so she could have a day off but he had to leave recently.

A notice in the shop window says "experienced, people-loving grill chef is wanted".

"Well, you have to get on with people, because you're right here while you're cooking. You're not hidden out the back where you can be bad-tempered and throw things around in the kitchen.

"Cooking must be heartfelt and delivered with ease," she said.

The diner received the top accolade for the area in the latest Lonely Planet guide, she said.

And people from all over the country tell Dawn she should franchise the business so they can buy a delicious New York-inspired burger in Wellington or Auckland.

"That will never happen, because I would have to give up control.

"They'll just have to visit beautiful Ohakune more often," she said.