I was sitting outside on what feels like the first day of Spring, having just made myself the all-American staple breakfast of Huevos Rancheros. For the uninitiated, it's two fried eggs, sitting on a bean/tomato/chilli/coriander topped mix served with corn tortillas - and for me it came with guacamole, because everything tastes better with guacamole. With all the news of the impending US presidential election, and mid-devouring my huevos, it got me thinking about the US and the almost endemic influx of US themed dining into the Melbourne scene.
I visited US style 'Parlor' on the new-bar-a-month Windsor end of Chapel a couple weeks back and loved the set-up and diner style chic. However, lamentably, the food couldn't match the decor. I had a Dynamite Burger (burger with Chipotle and Asian slaw) and my first bight (and a number after) was a nice crunchy piece of grissel - sorry guys but it don't fly in this town, especially when there are so many solid burger joints flipping around. Simply put, you gotta fork out the dough for the better quality meat, not the fat loaded 3 star Safeway variety! The side serve of onion rings came with a side serve litre of oil and the Ruben dog (corned beef, cheese, sauerkraut, pickle) was nothing special.
Anyway, I digress, my point to this is that as much as a hipster or two flipping a burger in a stylised venue is the newfangled Melbourne version of a diner, the real authentic diner, the heart and soul diner, the home away from home, can be found in the US of A. And I've been to one, and I have extremely fond memories, which I thought I'd share.
The Florida Avenue Grill in Washington DC is a real authentic US diner. At the Florida Avenue Grill they don't just serve everyday food, they serve "soul food". This place is an institution - it has been around since 1944 and it looks like it. It is located only a short walk from Howard University, a predominantly African-American college, and the area in north-west DC called Colombia Heights which is a mix between gentrifying and down-right dangerous. The best part about the Grill is the waitresses - they only call you "Sugar" and they refer to each other with a "Miss" before their names, so "Miss Maple can you pass the ketchup?". The guy on the grill is the guy on the grill - he is there every single day, he owns it, he lives it, he breathes it and if he rides a bike to work, it's not by choice.
But let's talk about the food because this is where it gets interesting - breakfasts are US obesity super-sized. Most breakfasts come with home fries (basically fried potatoes) and you choose between biscuits (basically scones) and toast. I used to get corn beef hash (some sort of meat but really not sure what it was), and there are other things on the menu which I'm still not sure of (halfsmoke? scrapple? grits?). If you're a sweet tooth, the buttermilk pancakes are incredible and ginormous! The coffee ain't much to get excited about but the half litre iced teas which you can load up with sugar are perfect for a hangover.
My only regret about the Grill was that I never made it for dinner which was true southern fare (fried chicken, collared greens, catfish, pork chops, ribs, etc). So team, you want a diner, this is a diner, get yourself to the US of A and go to a real one.