Friday, May 15, 2015

A Big Boy's Guide to an Unscheduled Staycation

It is a rarity that I have time off that is not scheduled down to the minute. We are either seeing family in other states or on some great adventure chasing a band that refused to come to St. Louis. But, since I am in the "use it or lose it" club with my vacation, when Death Cab for Cutie and the Damnwells decided to grace St. Louis with their presence (both concerts were amazing, by the way), I opted to use some time, as to not force this 40 year old body to greet the pillow at 1 am only to depart its comfort four hours later. So, I took Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday off. What to do...What. To. Do?

EAT! Of course.

This was not intended; it was unplanned, unscheduled, if you will, but I made a post on Wednesday that forced me into three mornings of diner deliciousness. I was just heading back from letting a friend borrow a guitar for a recording session, and I realized I'd be passing by Tiffany's Diner, which I had always wanted to check out. So, I did. 

I have had an obsession with diners as long as I can remember, particularly counter tops. As a listener, I love bellying up to a counter and just opening my ears. Inevitably the blue collar guy will bitch about the economy, as the older flirt will hit on the waitress, and the regulars will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about how much it sucks to get old. Each place that I went had similar characters, all were wonderful and crazy. They were human, and I loved them for it, but let's get to the food. 

Tiffay's is what I would call serviceable. There was nothing inspiring about the food, nothing that made me want to tell everyone to check it out, but that is not to say it was bad. It was what it was, diner food on the cheap. I ordered up a bacon omelette with some hash browns and a small order of biscuits and gravy. The biscuits emerged from a container with no treatment done before being sliced and covered in gravy. The gravy was decent, but my wife has spoiled me. Yes, my vegan wife makes the best damn biscuits and gravy. Sure they are vegan, but taste is taste, and they taste amazing, so I say thank you may I have another. The eggs at Tiffany's were good, thinly spread across the griddle, yet the cook managed to keep them somewhat loose, allowing the omelette to have moistness which my toast appreciated. The hash browns were tasty, nice texture with enough browning. Where they lost me was the American Cheese. I know there is probably some hipster nostalgia associated with American Cheese, but I hate that shit. I ate it A LOT as a kid, and if I never have to eat it again, I'll be okay with that. Unfortunately, everything just seemed to lack seasoning, but it was nothing that a good splash of hot sauce couldn't fix. 

Next up was Burkemper's Family Restaurant probably a mile from my house, yet I had never been there. I am an idiot. Without reservation, Burkemper's is the place I would recommend the most. Why? Seasoning. It all tasted SO GOOD. I could not put my fork down. I went with the Country Fried Steak, something I almost never order, but I heard they are known for their broasted chicken, so I thought some of that magic may spill over into the Country Fried Steak. I was correct. It was thin and beautifully seasoned. The bite was easy and the breading offered a nice crunch to it. The over hard eggs were fine. I wasn't a fan of using the ring mold to cook them. I prefer mine to be a bit thinner, so the edges crisp, but that could be a lingo thing. Maybe if I had ordered fried they would have come out that way. I can't think of anything that stood out about the hash browns, but I didn't have any complaints. While my wife's biscuits are still better (yes I said it, and I know where your mind went...those too), I did like theirs, and I LOVED their gravy. I believe they used sausage and bacon, and that made all the different. It was the perfect consistency and tasted like being spoon fed heaven from the angels. 

Friday's diner experience came at the recommendation of THE IronStef. She's doing a series called Overbites, all about the options in Overland, so she sent me to George's Diner, and I am glad I went. George's was all ambience, a weathered L shaped counter with a very sassy cook taking orders and slinging hash. White board walls with menu items written on them, and a sign instructing us to never trust a thin cook. I ordered up Sandy's Stack, a monstrosity of biscuits, hash browns, bacon, sausage, and eggs to order - mine were over medium. The bacon was perfectly cooked; the eggs were on the verge of over easy, but they were thick enough in parts to give me the bite I was looking for; biscuits were treated on the griddle before beginning the stack, which definitely improved the overall flavor of the dish; the sausage patties had good consistency, but weren't very flavorful - maybe I'm just used to vegan sausage now :-/; and the hash browns were my favorite of the three diners. They had a really unique texture. I think they may have been shorter shreds, so they were a bit softer which worked in the Stack. The gravy? Well, it was thick and was too starchy for me to love it. Not bad, but I left some on my plate. I damn near licked my plate at Burkermper's to make sure I got it all. Still, the combination was incredible, and I'll be back for sure. 

While I cannot recommend any of these locations as a daily eatery, for fear all of you will die of heart attacks. I will say, if you are looking for a counter to belly up to on that random day off, make it a point to visit a local mom-n-pop diner. I doubt you'll be disappointed with the experience or the food. 

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