I really like these holey restaurants that claim to have “world famous” food products. They are usually located in small towns, somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the United States. When you get there you walk down Main Street and turn right at the traffic lights. If you pass the old First Baptist Church you have gone too far.
A little further the road gets a little bumpy and the only other business you see is a general store that looks like a place where you will find a restaurant with world famous food.
They are often named after people with one or two names like Rudy’s Diner or Jim’s BBQ. If you are lucky, during your visit you will meet Rudy or Jim.
Near the entrance are excerpts from old newspapers which are turning yellow. They include photos of the original owners standing outside their restaurants, wearing long white aprons and big smiles. Legends tell you they’ve been calling their world famous burgers and fried chicken since almost opening day.
As you walk in, the door chimes sound and everyone turns to see you. They know you’re not in those places, but that’s fine with them and they greet you with a smile or a folklore phrase like “partner” or “dude”.
Whether it’s a Rudy’s, a Jim’s or even a Grandma’s Café, places are generally the same. Photos of family members line the walls. The tables are small and there is often a dining area with a few stools that appear to be there since the day the venue opened.
No matter where you sit, you can see cars slowly passing by and people discussing the latest gossip in the parking lot. No one is in a rush and everyone seems to be enjoying life as it is.
Almost everyone who eats is a regular. You know it’s true because the waitress walks up and says “hello honey” or “coffee with cream honey? Even if they know the real names of the clients.
Tables usually have these old fashioned salt and pepper shakers, sometimes with the little holes at the top of the S or P shaped shakers, and the sound of the local radio playing country or light rock tunes is heard somewhere. in the distance. No one sees the radio but everyone can somehow hear it.
When ordering, you feel like you have no choice but to order the “world famous” item. You see it on the menu in bold letters and the last page tells how this menu item got famous around the world.
Sometimes it’s a world famous hot dog and other times it’s the world famous mac and cheese. In a truly American, red-white-and-blue place, you will also come across a world famous dessert. It could be an apple pie or maybe a peach cobbler. Either way, the world famous dessert is always more believable than the world famous main course.
As you savor your meal, you start to think that you are on a movie set or that you are experiencing a chapter from your favorite book. The people seated at each table feel like familiar characters. The food is somehow the best you have ever tasted. The song playing in the background is the perfect song at the moment.
I like these places with holes in the wall. They remind me that there are good people, that they humbly make a living and enjoy it. They have a good sense of humor and they are brave enough to sell something that they believe is world famous.
One bite, and you believe it too.
Abe Villarreal writes about the people, culture and traditions of America. He can be contacted at [email protected]