This post is for Nicole, who really wanted me to memorialize a visit we took to a little greasy spoon diner here in the Ozarks.
It was her birthday, or it had been a few weeks ago, but we were just now finally getting around to celebrating with a night out. She choose the diner because it had a fried chicken meal, and a repuation as a quirky little place with good food.
So, we piled into a couple of cars and headed off on a culinary adventure. As we walked up to the front door, the smell took me back to the greasy spoon in the little town where I grew up. We walked in, and the handful of regulars in the restaurant all turned to look at the invaders. The moment had a bit of a Deliverance feel. There was no waitress, diner employee, or maitre d’ in sight. The dining area was three or 4 small booths and a couple of tables. It appeared our party of 7 would have to split up.
Then, like an angel from above, a waitress appeared and whisked us away from the suspicious locals and into the back room where she put a couple of tables together for us. I sat by the window and tried to pretend I couldn’t smell the wet, musty odor all around me.
Once seated, we realized that we had perhaps discovered a greasy spoon time machine. The wood paneled room we were in contained two shoot’em up video games. The little girl hanging out while her mom worked, entertained herself with the Smurfs, and right outside my window was a phone booth. An actual, bona fide phone booth where you put a coin in and call somebody. Not long after a woman walked by with a flip phone. We were not in 2016 anymore.
We got water in those plastic cafeteria glasses, that after being run through a dishwasher a thousand times, become milky, making you wonder about the purity of the water inside, but you just hope and gulp.
The menu was pretty extensive for such a little place. They served breakfast all day, had a page full of burgers and chicken sandwiches, and another page of entrees. When it came time to order, our birthday girl knew exactly what she wanted, “I’ll have the fried chickend dinner.” Then heard in response, “Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t serve that anymore, because nobody ever orders it. You’re the first person in years.”
If you’ve ever seen a 5-year-old after dropping an ice cream cone, you get an idea of the look on Nicole’s face. The waitress explained that they had just about every other kind of chicken, just not fried chicken. Then several of us ordered those other varieties of chicken, probably rubbing salt in the wound. Sorry Nicole.
She settled for chicken strips instead.
The food was plentiful, the price cheap, and it was your standard American diner fare – completely unhealthy, but absolutely delicious. I just tried not to think too much about what an inspector might find in the kitchen.
As we walked back through the diner to leave, the fact that we had traveled through time was reinforced by the RGB TV projector showing a pale picture on the wall, and the gigantic copy machine in the corner. The dancing Senator Hillary Clinton doll by the register was the cherry on top.
We attempted to lift Nicole’s spirtis by taking her to her favorite donut place, but then proceeded to completely ruin her year by telling her about the Yellowstone Supervolcano and the fact that life could end for everyone at any moment. Again, sorry Nicole.
Hope your birthday next year is better and full of fried chicken. But, you have to admit, the company was pretty good.