COBWEB CORNERS: Old-style diners getting hard to find
By Mel McFarland
Breakfast has turned into my favorite meal. Not just that, I like to remember some of my favorite places to eat that meal. As a kid, my parents liked to travel, which I still do when I can. I liked the old fashioned, little-town diners. When I travel, I watch for them. Before the Interstates there were some real classics. In some towns they were in old railroad cars and street cars. A few of these still exist, but you need to get off the Interstate to find them.
The most likely places are Kansas or Nebraska farm towns. There might be a motel or old hotel too, and a two-lane highway cutting through town. On one side there might be grain elevators and a railroad track. The center of town is usually near the railroad station, but somewhere along the highway is a diner, with perhaps just an EAT sign, maybe GOOD FOOD. In some little towns it might be on Main Street, or even Railroad Street. You can walk in and see booths and a long counter, behind which is a cook and maybe a waitress. I have been in some where one person does both jobs! If there is a waitress, she might have a uniform - sometimes just an apron over a plain dress. The menu is often typed and in a simple plastic cover. In really small diners, it might just be on a panel over the counter. There might be a couple of men at the counter having coffee - the regulars who will be recognized when others come through the door.
The waitress might have a name tag, or possibly tell you her name as she gives you the menu and asks what you would like to have. Names like Pam, Mary, Sue, or even Polly used to be common. Now you get names like Dallas, Houston, even Dakota - well, those to me are the names of cowboys!
Once the food comes, things get serious. I like to sample specialties, but I can rate a diner by its Biscuits and Gravy! I think that's from my days in the military. As a kid, I'd just have eggs and bacon with toast. You do not see fancy food in the roadside diners. As I travel sometimes I will even have two breakfasts and no lunch!
Now don't get me wrong. I eat many a breakfast in the places along Colorado Avenue. In fact I did a column a few years ago on my favorite local spots.