Somehow the t.v. has flipped to a channel showing Alice reruns. Ghost surfing is one of the perils of have Dish network when your neighbors do too. Watching the show reminds me that for quite some time now, I have been captivated by old school diners and burger joints. My favorite diner experience was one time when I was taking a mini road-trip across the prairie and stopped at a little restaurant in town so small you'd miss it if you blinked. It was one of those places that caters to local regulars. Conversation came to a halt when I walked in and everyone stared. Just about everyone in the place was male, wearing overalls or some manner of jeans and drinking coffee. The city I mostly grew up in is not quite as big as it sometimes thinks it is, but it's decent sized. Somehow it fascinated me to be in a place where everyone really knew each other and outsiders stuck out like a sore thumb. I only stayed long enough to eat a piece of pie, but somehow the experience has stuck with me all these years.
The prairie is actually full of great, old diners. There was one within walking distance of my apartment there that sat right on the railroad tracks. It was inexpensive and served huge portions of homey, artery clogging food, and every time a train went by, the whole building shook. For a moment, there amid the rattling of plates and cutlery, it always felt like we were in the middle of an earthquake. Beyond that, it was your pretty standard small down diner. Its proximity to the train somehow made it was awesomely quirky, giving it a real character its own. It's just the sort of place I love to find when I'm on a road trip.
It's funny, when I was younger, my road trips relied heavily on McDonald's and the #2 extra value meal. As I've grown older, however, I love the experience of trying little family owned places - especially the ones that have a bit of history to them. Some are great, some are less so, but it's always interesting to try something new, which is one of the reasons I've been intrigued by a little place called Jim Dandy's, which is here in town on Sandy Blvd. Its "Since 1937" sign beckons to me every time I go to the German bakery down the street from it.
So, the other day when I was on the way to the bakery to pick up a coffee cake and some rye rolls, I finally made a stop for a burger. Dandy's is one of those places that you just know is not going to be healthy. It has a ton of offerings on its menu, but they are all variations on the same fried theme. While not quite of Big Jim's caliber (Big Jim's in The Dalles, being the gold standard by which all burger joints are measured), the bugers weren't bad. The special sauce was good, but the cheese gave the whole affair a waxy, processed taste that knocks what was an otherwise good burger down a bit in my esteem. The french fries, however, were great - crispy on the outside and smooth and not at all mealy on the inside. Perfect! As I was eating them, I kept thinking of the chapter in Jeffrey Steingarten's The Man Who Ate Everything, where he talks about french fries that are almost "creamy" on the inside, which makes me laugh, because Jim Dandy's is so NOT the kind of place you would expect to find the food critic from Vogue, but, then again, we're talking about a man who carries emergency chocolate and has a Milky Way fixation, so who's really to say where he might show up? Meanwhile, I know that this Jim's is good, but not quite Portland's answer to the burger mecca of the eastern end of the Gorge.
Happy Pre-birthday Month to Me
In other exciting news, I have received my first birthday present (to me, from me) - tickets to see Cirque du Soleil's Corteo. I am not sure yet what I will do for my actual birthday (there's still plenty of time to decide that!), but I think a trip to see Cirque on March 1 will be a fabulous way to start the month off right! A friend took me to see Varekei for my birthday a couple years ago. Even if the rest of the show hadn't been as absolutely stunning as it was, it was worth the price of admission just for the Icharus sequence at the begining. Consider me hooked! (Not to mention that I am especially excited to see the show after listening to Cirque du Soleil: Igniting the Divine Spark on CD during my work commute for a week there back in November. (If you're looking for some creative inspiration the cd is, by the way, worthwhile. And, even if you're not, it offers and interesting behind the scenes look at Cirque's prouductions.)
Gratuitous Cute Puppy Picture (I swear, one day they will stop - I know people never find our pets or children as adorable as we do, but I'm just still so taken with her!)