Eating while on the road rarely promises a good meal. It is not uncommon, while traveling, that one finds themselves at mealtime in an unknown location with unknown resources with their gut dictating that the time to eat is now. That is part of the reason for success of fast food in America. Instant recognizable comfort and satiation every five miles on the highway. No hunting necessary, the golden glow of the marquee marks the restaurants location fifty feet off of the exit. Not too hungry yet, think you can push on? No problem, the next exit promises the same options, if you are lucky, maybe a Panera. I lately have been finding myself trying to avoid that pattern. Some curmudgeons bemoan it, but my cell phone has been the greatest tool in this quest.
While traveling with Amanda this past Wednesday, hunger dictated that we eat somewhere between Indiana, PA and Pittsburgh. We were without time constraints, so it was easy to be choosy about where we ate. At the same time though, we did not want to start driving and pick someplace as we went because we always end up settling on something disappointing because of the fear that it is going to be the best choice before there are no choices left and you end up skipping a meal. So I pull out my
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Droid and use Google’s “places” app to locate places to eat around me. I scrolled though the generated list, ignoring the common everyday occurrences, as a tiny arrow pointed in the direction and gave the distance to each of my potential stops. Each entry had a rating and description and I can easily skip over places described as “TGI Friday’s like” and “worst place to eat in Indiana County” (although I admit that those places intrigue me). Finally I saw the word that hooked me:
Diners. The butt of many jokes about food quality and wait staff, but at least you know what you are getting. Not in the cookie cutter, “I’ll have a number 5 with Coke, just like I can have at any other of your locations down the street” sort of way that I was complaining about before, either. Things here will be familiar, but chances are there will be some unique qualities that give each diner its own distinguished charm. Four things you can you can count on though: the staff have been there for years, the same patrons have been there for years, gravy seems to be an option for everything, and there will be pie.
I have to admit though, Diner’s started out in their time, as what fast food chains are to me now. They were prefabbed, open 24 hours a day, had a menu designed to appeal to all on-comers, and their service was fast, convenient and cheap. Now though, fast, convenient, and cheap means eating, in the car, food purchased from a window or a touch sensitive screen at a gas station. Don’t get me wrong, I love Sheetz, but when was the last time you were able to ask your MTO touch screen whether she would have the hot roast beef sandwich or the club?
Everyday I hear people complain about today’s modern world being rush rush rush, no one takes time to smell the roses. They COMPLAIN about it, yet are part of the problem. It is the same complaint generation after generation. People blame society, technology or teenagers for the blinding pace that life is passing them by, when they themselves are just too complacent to get off the beaten track and try something different or unknown and slow down. They are too worried about their drive time or not knowing what they will order to stop somewhere new, sit down with someone they love, and order something with gravy on it.
Don’t forget the pie.