Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dig: Greasy Spoons

Just about anyone you ask would confirm that I'm cheap. One of the main reasons I'm cheap is because I don't have much money in the first place. Of course, "much" is a relative term, so I don't expect a lot of sympathy for those of you who truly don't have a lot of cash in your back pockets. However, you rich bastards sure could help a brother out once in a while!

OK, so I'm cheap. And I'm generally not very pretentious. Despite my Starbuck's and foreign car snobbery, I'm really a down-to-earth kind of dude. I'm a good guy - just ask me!

OK, I'm cheap and a regular Joe. Got it. So that's why I dig a good greasy spoon over a high-falutin' (sp?) eatery of some kind. As much as I dig filet mignon and lobster washed down with an Absolut-and-tonic (with lemon, not lime please), followed up with a slice of strawberry cheesecake, I get a little buyer's remorse as I'm loosening up the belt by a couple of notches.

So, because I like to think that I'm providing a little public service, here are some rules of thumb that will let you know if you are in a good greasy spoon:

  • The longer the counter at the place, the better the food. If it's just a couple of seats long, it's just a token gesture and the place probably actually cleans their griddle.

  • If there is a lot of formica, vinyl and chrome, you know damn well their club sandwich is going to be great. However, if the vinyl isn't cracked, the place is probably owned by a guy who doesn't even work there, in which case the place will suck.

  • When you open the bathroom door, does it bump into the toilet? If so, they will have the best cherry pie in town.

  • The cook (not "chef") wears a white t-shirt with stains and a white apron with stains and the sweat from his brow is one of the main ingredients in all of his dishes.

Seriously, when was the last time you had a bad meal at a diner? Ain't nobody going to get all creative with chipotle at a place called "Bud's" so there are no surprises. What do you think is going to be on your ham and cheese sandwich at Bud's? I'll give you a hint - there's something from a pig and something a cow. You want more than that? Don't worry, Nancy (Bud's daughter who is working her way through school) will ask you if want "everything" on that before she puts the little slip of paper in that spinning thing that holds all the orders. Chips or fries are 99 cents extra and they come in the "basket" if you are really hungry.

Now compare that to when you ordered the Chilean sea bass at The Bistro. Besides that it took for-frickin-ever for Brooke to get your drink order and then re-appear a while later to take your dinner order, it was a little over-cooked, wasn't it? And you didn't know that it came with leeks, did you? Would you like to see the dessert tray? Sure, it all looks great but after spending $50 on a meal that will only carry me until breakfast tomorrow morning, now I can only afford a Snickers bar so I guess I'll pass on the White Chocolate Mousse. Despite Brooke's cleavage, the whole experience has a way of making me feel a little bit empty.

Those expensive joints make a bit of a show of dropping off the bill (bomb?) on the table because when you're plunking down that much money, it's like part of the entertainment. There's a nifty little folder thing that has a little pocket for your credit card and the waiter may have written something gay on the bill like "Thank You". Not so at a good dive. After a big-ass burrito and a cold pitcher of beer followed by a stick of gum, your waitress slides your bill (1/4 the size of the hoity-toity place and yet my pants are just as tight) across the formica with the same fanfare that is usually seen while changing the paper at the bottom of the birdcage. Thanks? I don't think so - she has to get a plate of mozzarella sticks to table 4!

A good diner doesn't have filet mignon on the menu. And if they did, you wouldn't get it because you know it would suck. That's like ordering eggs benedict at a breakfast joint with a long counter and a bell that rings when you walk in the door. Don't be an idiot. Their eggs benedict sucks. If you want a big plate of scrambled eggs, sausage and toast for $4.95, though, you've come to the right place. Your mom never made you eggs benedict so you must not need it.

So there you go. Don't be a pretentious bastard. The next time your tummy is grumbling, go belly up to a lunch counter someplace and enjoy the sweet smell of burning grease and get a little ketchup on your shirt as it falls off your cheeseburger. And send all the money you saved by not going to an over-priced place with tablecloths to me.


Laura said...

We love old dive places too, but if you go with the wrong people, they can be buzz kills. Give me a counter stool, napkins from a cruddy dispenser, and a waitress named Shirley- and I'm in my happy place. :)

Bo is not a prong! said...

This could be subtitled, "Why the Dee-Lite now sucks." $7.50 plate of eggs my ass. Felix's or bust, I say. Plus, I can check out some awesome weapontry - - if no one has stolen it, that is.

Curly Glamour Girlie said...

Best greasy spoon I ever ate at was Pat's Hubba Hubba in Port Chester NY. The whole diner was a counter and the food offerings were written on paper plates and tacked on the wall. Best chili cheeseburgers and chili fries EVER.