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Customers order food after a grand opening event for the Hixson Pike Diner early Wednesday morning.

For all the beautiful scenery, warm weather and tourism appeal of Hawaii, Prashant Sharan says he prefers the people and places of Chattanooga.

So the 38-year-old former Denny's area manager decided to open his first restaurant in his transplanted home of Chattanooga.

"I really fell in love with this place and it's always been my dream to have my own restaurant," Sharan said.

On Wednesday, after previously spending his career managing hotels in India and Denny's restaurants in Hawaii, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama, Sharan opened his own eatery in a former Huddle House restaurant on Hixson Pike near Lupton Drive.

Despite his diverse, international background, his restaurant will feature a variety of Southern dishes and bear the simple name, "the Hixson Pike Diner."

"Our goal is to provide simple food at a great price," he said.

Breakfasts will start at $1.99; lunches will start at $3.99 and dinners will start at $7.99, Sharan said.

Although most of the menu features traditional American dishes -- and breakfast is served at any time -- Sharan will bring a taste of Hawaii where he lived for the past six years.

He is introducing his own Aloha burger cooked on the grill with a pineapple slice and a new Mahi-Mahi fish dish.

"But I have also talked with a lot of local folks and will include popular Southern dishes such as catfish and green beans," he said.

Sharan recruited a college-era friend and roommate, Maneesh Rawat, from a 5-star restaurant in Washington, D.C., to help with the startup of the new diner. On Wednesday, Sharan gave away pancakes throughout the day as a welcome gesture to help attract local clientele.

"We want people to think of this as their restaurant," he said.

Sharan has hired an initial staff of 10 employees. He will need that many, plus a lot of his own time and effort, to maintain the restaurant hours from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.

The Hixson Pike Diner is the third restaurant concept at the 1,875-square-foot building.

The restaurant was built as a Huddle House in 2006. It shut down after a couple of years, and later housed Hillbilly's before that restaurant shut down earlier this year.

"This is still a great location and with the right food, value and service, I think we'll be successful," Sharan said.

Contact Dave Flessner at or 757-6340.