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Entries in Diners (7)

Monday
Jul092012

Tony Packo's 

This Toledo, Ohio institution has been selling Hungarian style hot dogs and sausages since the early 1930’s, and markets their “Pickles and Peppers” of spicy, sweet, and garlic infused varieties internationally. The Hungarian culinary bend toward things spicy and sweet is evident in Tony Packo’s products. The Pickles and Peppers line features an anthropomorphic cartoon pickle and pepper, whose flavors complement each other to the point of being in bed together on the label (original), or running toward each other with tiny hearts in their wake (sweet hots), or dancing beneath the moon (sweet mix) – a veritable gustatorial match made in heaven – or at least, you know, a pickle jar.

The Packo name first struck a global chord when the cross dressing, incessant discharge seeking company clerk Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger, played by Toledo native Jamie Farr, was asked on the seminal show M*A*S*H to speak about his hometown. Farr kept the verisimilitude of the Klinger character with realistic insertions of his locally beloved Toledo Mud Hens (one of the oldest minor league baseball teams in existence), and of course Tony Packo’s.

The Pickles and Peppers kick up any sandwich an octave or two, and can be found at specialty food stores, some larger chains, and online by the jar or the case.

Thursday
Jun142012

Good Girl Dinette 

Once upon a time, one seeking an authentic calzone was tasked with journeying to the Italian sector of a city to find it. Ditto for latin fare and everything in between. And for a delicious dive into Vietnamese cuisine, a trip to a city’s version of Chinatown was required. The times have changed, and our palates are fortunate enough to have been born in the greatest era of culinary crossover.

At Good Girl Dinette (Highland Park, Los Angeles), Diep Tran is continuing a family legacy. Raised in restaurants, Tran has established a fusion that sits well in any community-a seamless marriage of Vietnamese comfort food and the traditional American greasy spoon. Good Girl Dinette is a microcosm of the flourishing neighborhood in which it resides. The interior is a minimilist collage of rustic crimson wooden benches and lemon/ lime hued chairs; the walls a throwback, exposed brick that lends a certain homey charm. The front window is modest and simple-an artistic lean, sans pretense. It is, essentially, Highland Park.

The menu is a culmonation of many global neighborhoods. It is a lesson in brevity, a clinic in appropriately distributed flair. Good Girl Dinette has porridge, though this is no fairy tale. The hungry gourmand with carniverous tendencies faces many decisions;Galangel Chicken and Pork Confit amongst them. The herbivore, tired of salads, can choose such options as Vegetarian Curry or Pot Pie. And of course, they do have vibrant salads for those sticking with the leafy stuff. And forget the usual sugar water suspects-at Good Girl, they make sodas from scratch.

Good Girl Dinette is bringing the melting pot of our nation into their kitchen. The American dream tastes so good.

Wednesday
Mar142012

Dick’s Drive In

In today’s hectic times, where bottled chaos is par for the course and the winds of change are tornadic in every sector, from technology to the cost of a gallon of gas, a wrench in the machine is seemingly our only constant.

Dick’s Drive In knows this all too well. The Seattle based hamburger joint added two burgers to their already concise menu in 1971. And then they jolted the system, dropping orange soda and replacing it with Diet Coke. Nothing since then, but who knows when the next wave of revolution will come crashing in?

Of course, this is tongue-in-cheek. In Seattle, the land that gave us the matrix that is Starbucks, residents have been blessed with the simplicity and downright divine fare of Dicks Drive In since 1954. At the time, the country was in dire need of a good meal at an even better cost. Throw in quick service for the rushed culture we were, a gem was created. Dick’s was a place to grab a burger and show off the new hot rod, a community gathering spot fueled by neighborly goodwill and French fries. Fast forward to today, the status quo remains the same. Once a burgeoning curiosity, now a nostalgic throwback to another era, Dick’s is as iconic to the Seattle landscape as the Space Needle.

Unfortunately for those of us not indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, the dining hotspot decided long ago not to franchise, bestowing the gift of grease and good times onto their community alone. Fortunately for those of us seeking our own morsel of authentic American Graffiti, a trip to Seattle is all it takes. Dick’s Drive In has already outlived Elvis.

Here’s a milkshake cheers to hoping it outlives Elvis sightings as well.

Sunday
Feb122012

The Jackson Hole Diner

The Jackson Hole Diner, located on Astoria Boulevard at the cusp of where the famed neighborhood of Jackson Heights melds with Astoria, was started as a sort of reprisal of diner culture in New York in 1972. Amid a growing trend of frozen preformed burgers and food, Jackson Hole framed its notoriety around a 7 ounce burger, grilled to order. The restaurant grew to a local chain, now encompassing more than half a dozen stores throughout NYC.

The Astoria Boulevard location was used in the canonical film Goodfellas, where aspiring mobsters Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and Tommy DiVito (Joe Pesci), are postured beside their car. Checking watches, doffing hair, and waiting for a payrolled truck driver to arrive so they can “hijack” the rig. The Jackson Hole Diner, called the “Airline Diner” in the film, glistened in the muted chrome of the classical diner motif. The art deco edges and chamfers. The hypermodern promise of neon sconces, yet bearing the timeless zig and zag of Greek ferruling. Yes, a burger can be had here. And fast.

Thursday
Feb022012

The Hollywood Diner 

In the seminal 1982 Barry Levinson film Diner, a certifiable list of established cinematic stalwarts and burgeoning stars filled the cast roster. Amongst the actors in the coming of age comedy/drama were Kevin Bacon, Mickey Rourke, Paul Reiser and Ellen Barkin, though at the heart of the movie, there could only be one true featured player. And that breakout performer sure could make a mean roast beef sandwich.

The Hollywood Diner in Baltimore was a classic diner long before the film premiered, and continues down its original path of destiny to this day. Levinson purchased the building at auction in New Jersey for the movie, and it has served as the gateway to Baltimore ever since, while continuing its Tinseltown legend as the premier greasy spoon in cinema; the Hollywood Diner has gone on to be showcased in the films Tin Men, Sleepless in Seattle, Liberty Heights and Enemy of the State, as well as television dramas The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Streets. The diner comes with built-in charm, as well as an established code. The booth where Reiser’s Modell pesters Steve Guttenberg’s Eddie (“You gonna finish that?”) remains open for business, a place where the customer can both enjoy French fries with gravy (a la Diner) while engaging in his own game of “6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon”. The Hollywood Diner also embraces its own tradition, as featured in the film; working men dine on the left, kids on the right-the way it ought to be, homage to simpler days.

The restaurant has become a landmark to the city of Baltimore, a reincarnated many-times- over, classic slice of American pie that serves the urban workers and residents that make the city go. With the franchise monster seeping into every corner of every populace in the country, the Hollywood Diner endures as a throwback to small business and charm, a time capsule of sorts. It is a reminder that coffee was once just coffee, not a fancy scientific experiment. That a burger can be…just a burger, no frills needed. And as in the film, the diners of our golden age were a place that a group of guys could just enjoy some comfort food and be a group of guys.

Diner truly was art imitating life. The Hollywood Diner is both.

Pass the ketchup.

Friday
Jan272012

Abe’s Coney Island, Ypsilanti, MI

The Northwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Hamilton Street in the “other” city of Ypsilanti (“othered”, of course, by the stalwart sister of Ann Arbor to her west), Abe’s is a twenty four hour destination. College kids, locals, and nearly anyone toddling around the extended, rusted grid of Greater Detroit would be a likely patron of Abe’s at 3:37 am.

The corner is sconced with a vinyl green awning – beckoning, perhaps as a green light to come on in. Have some chili fries. One of Abe’s famous gyros, or maybe one of many stylized omelettes, and some hashbrowns. A steak, and two eggs might do it. Of course, coffee and pie. Padded booths of staunch wood grain Formica contain clusters of twos or fives, as they sway, and clamor loudly into the depths of night, dwindling by the faint light of dawn.

Sunday
Oct162011

South Street Diner

Billed as the greatest round the clock diner by New England’s own Phantom Gourmet, Boston’s South Street Diner is the epitome of greasy spoon appeal. Patrons of the iconic venue will attest that the one true after-hours scene in Boston is the South Street Diner.

Showcased in Hollywood cinema films and visited by the likes of Walken and Spacey, South Street Diner keeps the electricity flowing as the rest of the city turns out the lights. As the only 24hr establishment in Boston, the diner is a haven for anyone seeking the pleasures reserved for authentic American greasy spoons— great food, colorful crowds, and the occasional late night spectacle.

Originally built in 1947 to serve Boston’s blue collar finest, South Street Diner has evolved into a true New England landmark. With its purple, neon lights glowing as hot as any star, this favored eatery with national acclaim will always play like a Lionel Richie hit; All Night Long.