When it comes to eating out, there are two kinds of families: restaurant families and diner families. My family is a diner family. No fancy steak houses or sushi bars for us. When we want a hearty dinner and indigestion for four, it’s off to the diner we go.
Diners are great because no matter which diner you go to, in any state, off any highway, you can always get the same thing and it will look the same and taste the same, and usually, two hours later, it will repeat on you the same. It’s like there is some big diner central where one guy cooks all the food and then sends it through some global transport tube to the diner where you’re eating.
Ding! Your tuna melt is up.
All the diners are decorated the same way, as well. They all have booths and breakfast bars and those same revolving dessert displays featuring gargantuan ten layer cakes that look incredible but taste, universally, like Twinkies. Even the chocolate ones taste like Twinkies. It’s quite a feat.
And then there is the menu. Diners are the only places in the world where you can get souvlaki, chicken parm and an enchilada all in the same restaurant… for breakfast.
Is it four-star dining? No, of course not. But there’s always something at the diner for all the fickle eaters in my family, so it works for us… as long as we don’t get too adventurous and stick to the chicken parm and the tuna melts.
Still, we have always been hopeful that one day we might find a diner that rises above the rest. An uber-diner with better tasting food. The Holy Grail of diners. The “best” diner.
And then we found it: The Best Diner. That’s what it was called… the Best Diner. It said as much on the big glowing neon sign by the side of the road.
Of course we were dubious. We’ve been to places that declared they had the “best pizza”… which turned out to be a dough-based Frisbee with tomato sauce. We’ve had “the world’s best coffee” and then seared our tongues on caffeinated swill. Yes, we have been fooled by these “best” claims before, so we entered The Best Diner suspiciously, with appropriately low expectations, and with a roll of Tums.
“Wow, a jukebox at our table,” the kids exclaimed. “This is the BEST diner.”
“Yup, that’s what it’s called,” my husband and I snickered, as though we were the only ones to ever make this joke.
The waitress took our order and brought over some coffee. The coffee was good. Great, in fact. Then the food came.
It was also good. Really good. Yummy noises came from all around the table. I raised an eyebrow at my husband.
“This really is the best diner,” I said to him. We smiled contentedly at each other. We were in Diner heaven.
For many months we went to the Best Diner and ate the best diner food we’ve ever had. Perfect pancakes… thick, juicy hamburgers… mouth-watering desserts.
Then ski season ended and we had to go back to our regular diner back home.
Months passed and we tried new diners. Diners at home. Diners at the beach. Diners on the highway and off. But none of them measured up to the Best Diner.
Then one summer day, we decided to take a drive up to ski country and see what it was like during the off season. As we got off the highway, we started to drool like Pavlov’s dogs in anticipation of our stop of at the Best Diner.
“Look,” yelled my son as the neon sign came into view. “It’s not the Best Diner anymore.” We all stared at the sign that now said “Bob’s Diner.”
“Who’s Bob?” asked my daughter.
“I guess Bob bought the Best Diner,” I surmised.
“Is it still the best,” asked my son as we went inside. We looked around. The décor was the same. The jukeboxes were still there. The menu hadn’t changed.
We were hopeful. But as soon as I tasted the coffee, I knew the jig was up.
“What can I get you today,” asked the waitress.
I sighed. “I’ll have the tuna melt.”
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