Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks
Tuesday, May 26, 2009 Almost World Famous
50's diners seem to be dying off. Back in the 80s, when I was in high school (the late 80s, mind you), the popular one in our area was T.R. McCoy's. It was one of those sprawling, gleaming places with neon and chrome everywhere and a big oldies-stocked Wurlitzer by the front door and something on the menu called phosphates, which I haven't seen before or since. In other words, the kind of place that almost certainly didn't exist in the '50s. I wish I could go back there sometime. Can you believe this? I'm getting nostalgic about fake nostalgia here.
And there's just no way for them to not be kitschy, which I guess is sort of the point. I mean, who would want to go to the real thing these days, the kind of places Jack Kerouac would get thrown out of, with cigarette smoke reducing visibility to the distance between the racially segregated lunch counters? Nobody needs that much nostalgia.
Besides, if the timeline holds up, we should be about due for 80s diners, right? There'll be Nagel prints on the walls and Duran Duran on the jukebox and New York Seltzer on tap and the table surfaces will all be mirrors with a light coating of cocaine dust.
Anyway, 50s diners aren't really our thing, but we ended up at one on the way home from our camping trip on Monday. After a few days of eating nothing but what we can dig out of the cooler and/or cook over an open flame, we're generally in the mood for a sit-down meal, but we're dirty enough that it has to be someplace casual, so a kitschy diner is just about perfect. This sign told us it would be exactly perfect.
We weren't really expecting a 50s diner, despite the large plaster chicken out front in the parking lot, but check this out:
That's not the whole place, unfortunately. Yes, the main room is about the size of a dining car, but then there are bathrooms and another, smaller dining room off the back, both of which would be loudly scraped off every time the train went through a tunnel.
And I think the menu was lifted wholesale from Jackrabbit Slim's. It was an embarrassment of riches, with the added bonus that everything was named after 50s celebrities or artifacts. M. Edium had the Love Me Chicken Tenders, I had the Little Bopper (lest you mock, it's a hamburger with onion rings on it), and Trash swallowed her disapproval of the kind of mild racism that results in a taco wrap being named the Richie Valens.
And the best part? No 50s music. Between T.R. McCoy's and the American Graffiti soundtrack on every family road trip from 1978 to 1988, 50s music is a little played out for me. The 60s music did me just fine. We'll have to come back in ten years to see if it's been updated to 70s music, in which case we're not staying.
Still, it's the signage that drew us in, not even counting the giant plaster livestock. We loved how it's billed as "Open 24 hours," except it opens at 6:00 a.m. and closes at 10:00 a.m., so don't expect those 24 hours to be consecutive. It's almost as great as the Midwestern modesty that causes it to describe itself as "almost world famous."
I hope I'm not ruining that with my readers in Australia. Maybe you should just skip this entry, mates. posted by M. Giant 7:48 PM 3 comments
I ALMOST stopped there for dinner on my way home from Illinois last weekend! Hilarious. Now I know. And knowing is half the battle.
Swensen's Ice Cream (a chain of ice cream stores I think mostly located in CA) used to have phosphates on their menu. My dad got all nostalgic about them. I remember them as being sort of like Sweet Tarts dissolved in seltzer water.
Now I'm regretting not going anywhere near there on our upcoming road trip. I would totally stop for that sign too.