Neighborhood Joint

Neighborhood Joint


There is a diner in town known for their pancakes that come with only two options:  one pancake or two and the warning “don’t even try three.”  The pancakes take 20 minutes to cook, are the size of a dinner plate and the height of a quarter.  Smeared with butter and doused with syrup it’s a nap waiting to happen.  Ergo, I love it.  Two of my favorite things, breakfast and naps.

It’s in my blood.  For years my Gam and I would have breakfast on Monday mornings at The Huddle in San Diego’s Mission Hills.  We’d meet at her place on Ibis Street, walk the few blocks to Goldfinch and pull up a stool at the counter.  After a while we were no longer given menus, they’d just start cooking the moment we entered the door.  A bagel and an egg for Gam. Eggs, bacon and hash browns for me.  And coffee.  Lots of coffee.

Gam delighted in aesthetics and adored The Huddle’s tall coffee mugs.  She complimented them every morning and was so sweet that when the restaurant updated their dishes they held aside a few of the tall mugs just for her.

When Gam no longer remembered what day it was, she’d still walk over to The Huddle every morning for breakfast.  On Mondays they’d send her back home knowing I’d be meeting her at 8 a.m.  until eventually I’d just walk into The Huddle on Mondays and greet her surprised “Becky!” with a hug and smile.

We’d take long walks afterwards with Paul, a retired teacher we befriended over the years.  Nasturtiums flooded the canyons, front yards bloomed with hydrangeas and a sweet little black cat would get fawned over whenever we walked by his house.

When I moved to Seattle I started going down the street to the Stone Way Cafe.  The Stone Way Cafe now serves beer in the evenings and has a menu that includes frittatas and enchilada stacks but at the time they were a greasy spoon where the most adventurous entree was Eggs Benedict.  I’d warm my hands on mugs of hot, rich coffee while sitting next to commercial fishermen, the only other people up that early.  Eventually I found the highly rated (top five in the country!) Maltby Cafe and, along with the rest of Seattle, would make the hour long haul for their local eggs and biscuits.  Who knew it’d be a primer for living in the south?

When I asked Stephen if there was a bagel place in town he gave it some thought then said “why would anyone need bagels when there are biscuits?”  And so, the first time I came to Georgia to visit, we met up with his close friends for biscuits before heading to Macon’s Cherry Blossom Festival.  The biscuits were so big I ended up eating mine with a fork and knife.  (Which, for the record, is not how you’re supposed to eat a biscuit.)  (Everyone was too nice to say anything.)

Maybe it was all of the Alice I watched as a kid…or the disturbing, yet somehow charming, diner lingo.  Where else would “burn the British and draw one in the dark” get you a toasted english muffin and cup of black coffee? But there is something so comforting knowing that right now in the cold dark mornings of fall, in towns all across the country, there are people pulling up to small diners.  Warm light pours from windows onto dark sidewalks, bells ring as doors open, seats are taken at tall counters and laminated menus dropped off with hot coffee poured in just the right mugs to let you know that you’re home.

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