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These delightful diners restore my faith in the greasy spoon

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Sometimes circumstances happen that make doing the things that we love difficult for a while.

I had knee surgery. This made it difficult to go out and dine at some of my favorite restaurants. I simply couldn’t sit there for any length of time and fully enjoy the food, service, ambiance, and social interactions that I usually enjoy.

Most of you know that I am not one to accept restrictions like this without a fight. Dining out is something that defi nes me. I decided to investigate alternatives that Liz and I would both enjoy. The trick here was to find good food that we could order and be served quickly at a reasonable price. The entire experience had to take place within an hour or less. This sounds like a tall order.

Thinking about this dilemma, we came up with the fact that we live in New Jersey, close to Delaware and Philadelphia. What is New Jersey and to some extent Delaware known for? Diners! In recent years I haven’t paid much attention to diners. I had the impression that they couldn’t be how I remember them from a much earlier time in my life. Back then, diners were the go-to spot for a big breakfast any time of the day or night. The food was “comfort food” in large portions without breaking a “ten-spot.” These were places that my crowd would gather after the clubs closed or the concerts let out. They were places that we hit before classes or work started in the morning. These were all memories and couldn’t possibly be the same in today’s world.

Liz decided that she needed to get me out and about sooner than later. I’m not one to be happy just sitting around with mobility limitations. She told me that we were going out for a ride. We ended up at the Brandywine Diner, 303 Rocky Run Parkway in Wilmington. When we pulled into the lot, The building looked inviting. I saw the word Diner and I was skeptical. Liz made it abundantly clear that we were going in for a late breakfast. I said, “yes dear” and followed her in leaning on the walker that I was forced to use at that point.

We were greeted and seated right away, and the hostess even offered to store that walker for me. In minutes, we had cups of steaming, strong, and delicious coffee. Our waiter Rich was clearly very experienced. He blended friendliness perfectly with his ability to deliver first-class service. He quickly took our order. I was excited to see that they offered “real” bagels with cream cheese and lox. He pointed out that I could get a platter that included lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, and olives. Or, I could get the bagel with lox, cream cheese capers and red onions without all the garnish for a lower price. I ordered the latter option. Liz ordered the French toast which also surprised me as it was done in the old-style sweet batter and was cooked perfectly. Once Rich took our order, he sent it into the kitchen. He then immediately refi lled our coffee. Minutes later, he returned with our complete order. The diner was busy, and I expected some wait time. The order was perfect in every way. Exactly how we ordered it. The kitchen staff was obviously at the top of their game.

I was shocked that the lox was piled high on my bagel. There was plenty of cream cheese and that simple plate was made to look very appetizing. Liz’s French toast was a thing to behold. Perfectly prepared and beautifully presented. She was thrilled with her selection. Throughout the process, coffee was being refi lled. Rich did one call-back to check on us which was just enough. He was constantly aware of how each of his tables was doing with their meals.

The best part for me was that we were in and out of the diner within an hour. We were presented the check and sincerely thanked by Rich who invited us back and suggested that he would always enjoy taking care of us in the future. The hostess who helped store my walker offered to take the check for me rather than have me stand at the checkout station and she retrieved my walker for me. The prices were more than reasonable for what we received. The owner made it a point to stop and say hello as we were leaving.

Overall, this was a great experience. In fact, since that visit, Liz and I have visited Deepwater Diner in Deepwater, N.J., and Woodstown Diner in Woodstown, N.J. Both diners have been long standing stops for locals, truckers, and travelers. We tried breakfast at each of these locations. I will tell you that both delivered exactly what old-school diners should be. We were greeted and served with warmth and smiles. The breakfast food was made perfectly and there was plenty of good hot coffee to be had. These are diners that live up to my idea of what a diner should be. If you haven’t tried a diner lately, find one with plenty of cars in the lot and give it a try. We tended to go with breakfast fare. Yet these places boast menus fi lled with good old comfort food. These are not fancy gourmet restaurants. They are exactly what they claim to be diners. Plenty of good basic food served quickly with a smile at a fair price.

I am happy to say that the places that Liz and I have recently tried have restored my faith in diners. Not all diners are what they claim to be. Just ask around and see where the crowds gather. I strongly recommend the Brandywine Diner if you happen to venture to North Wilmington. If you do go, tell them that Chef Murray from the Italian-American Herald suggested that you give them a try. You may even meet Rich. Buon Appetito. 

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