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Friday, February 17, 2012

Ten Best: Roadside Food; Diners; Mom & Pops!

As many of you are likely to know, one of my all-time favorite experiences is to happen upon a road-side diner or mom-and-pop eatery, hang out at the counter, order the special and just see what magic happens.  Sometimes I am rewarded with a menu that includes Clam-Rolls, or a milkshake arrives with his formative tin alongside, or the clam chowder is just the way I like it.  Even better is when I am able to have a conversation—with a waitress or owner or fellow customer that teaches me (yet again) the value of unplanned human interactions. 

Having been asked a few times for my favorite places for these experiences, here is your current list of my top-ten Diners and M&Ps.  If you are ever near any of them, please stop by.  And if you have any suggestions for new ones, we would love to hear, so please post!

1. Anapoli- 6920 3rd Ave, Bklyn, NY 11209  [BayRidge]

My classic local “diner”—Anapoli is actually an even older style “ice-cream parlor” that is a highlight of living in Bayridge.  Great Food, Better Personalities and very inexpensive. 

2. Highspire Diner-255 2nd Street, Highspire, PA, 17034 [south of Harrisburg, PA]

The penultimate Diner experience.  Across the street from a firehouse, down the road from an airport, I could spend a large part of my life in this establishment
 And never have a single bad day.  Lunch specials are always good and it’s a very “local” place with exactly the kind of waitresses you would expect.

3. Texas Tavern--  114 Church Avenue SW, Roanoke, VA 24011

Whether the Chili or the Cheesy Western or the fact that this place is smaller than my living room, it has been in its original form for decades and will likely never change. My only disappointment was that I was sober for the experience, according to the locals the waffle house effect (how much better certain foods taste when you are more than a little sauced) certainly applies here.

4.  Skooters—50 Ella Grasso Tpke, Windsor Locks, CT 06096 [Near Bradley Intl]

The least senior of the list but a great testament to a new style of diner.  There is a counter, there are clams, the service is always nice and last time I got to meet the owner.  Its location, near both and airport and an aviation museum are certainly added bonuses—as is the very tasteful use of neon and formica.

5.  Highland Park Diner—960 Clinton Ave South, Rochester, NY, 14620

Classic and beautiful diner on the south side of a great American city that has much to offer the person on a road-trip.  This diner has a unique, northern Upstate, Buffalo inspired menu and beautiful neon signage—but trust me, don’t just stay outside staring at the sign—go inside—its worth it!

6.  Coach House Restaurant— 4 Hackensack Ave, Hackensack, NJ 07601

I.m not normally a fan of the industrial New Jersey “modern” diner, but this place just has to be on any list.  Food quality and service are extremely good and it has a fireplace—a rare treat in these kind of places.

7.  The Thurman CafĂ©—183 Thurman Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43206

More a M&P bar than a diner, but still one of America’s great food and beer institutions.  I have to confess that I liked it more before the expansion/renovations, but I understand the need for progress.  Either way, a place that still knows what I like to eat and drink 12 years after I moved away is some kind of special!

8.  Tommy’s Diner— 914 West Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43222

Normally I have a hard and fast rule about renovations (see above) however Tommy’s was renovated due to a fire that started in the grease ducts—so that’s actually extra credit points!  Tommy never did think I would like NYC, and on some days he has been more than a little right, but one of the joys of heading back to Columbus is visiting this excellent Diner.

9.  Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl— 532 McIntire Avenue, Zanesville, Ohio 43701

The newest addition to the list, and a credit to a friend (A. Deaver) who introduced it to me, this is the only old fashioned (original) ice cream shop/candy store/lunch counter than I have ever been into in Ohio.  For that alone it deserves a spot on the list.  That the food and service are classic diner style—metal tin with the milkshake!!!--- just makes it ever better.

10.  Alexis Diner—5023 Route 9W, Newburgh, NY 12550  

The only modern-industrial pre-fab diner on the list, the Alexis is one of the absolute best in terms of service and food quality.  A great stop while on Hudson Valley road-trips, it is always busy, has excellent specials, and a very professional feel to it.  May not have 70 year old grease on the ceiling, but that’s not always a bad thing!

In Memoriam:

A few of the amazing places that have been lost to time, fire, a community’s lack of appreciation, indifferent owners or the other calamities that can befall a beloved eatery.

Noels, Waverly Ohio—US Rte 23 & SR 104  

Road-trips to grandma’s house were always topped off with this truck-stop/diner in southern Ohio. One of my earliest diner memories.

Stans, Columbus, Ohio— Westerville Rd & Morse Rd.

A 2008 fire dimmed forever the bright lights offering baskets of deep-fried goodness—Haddock, Shrimp, and Fried Chicken.  I imagine there were other things on the menu, but it didn’t really matter.

The K & M, Portsmouth Ohio, 612 Chillicothe Street           Also a part of childhood visits to Southern Ohio, This was an old school small town  restaurant with all the staples.  As the downtown of Portsmouth thinned and died out; it was only a matter of time that K&M would fade away as well. 

Shades Good Food, US40, Near Reynoldsburg, Ohio

A step above its cousin on South High Street, it featured the casual front for lunches, the formal dining room in the back—and the same food for both sides.  I can’t help but wonder if I was ever fooled!

The Shake Shoppe, US Rte 23 in Rosemount, Ohio

Many of my earliest memories revolve around this small place with iron work chairs and tables, amazing milkshakes, and French fries that were poufy and melted like butter on your tongue   Someday I will find those French fries again—and when I do—I will know my quest was victorious.

1 comment:

  1. Glad that I got to enjoy two of these great diners with you!