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An Ode to Greasy Spoons by Josh Ozersky

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To close out Greasy Spoons Week 2013, here is a short rant from highly-opinionated greasy spoon enthusiast Josh Ozersky:

123GSWlogo.pngOf all the forms of dining formed by the hand of man, the greasy spoon is my favorite. If anything, I like it too much, and use its standards — flattened hamburgers, shredded white hash browns, bright yellow toast, a friendly woman refilling my coffee — to judge far better restaurants. I have the kind of emotional attachment to these places that you might expect from someone like myself, a being half-feral and raised in a broken and corrupt place like Atlantic City. I should at this point explain what a greasy spoon is.

A greasy spoon, in my mind, is neither defined by the fact that it has spoons (although it usually does) or even grease (which it also does, and in abundance.) For me, the greasy spoon is a place with low ambition, low standards, and an absence of pretense or even self-awareness. A Greek diner doesn't seem to fit that description; its Hellenic references and vast menus preclude spoonitude. You shouldn't be able to order surf and turf, even a bad one, in a greasy spoon. Likewise, a coffee shop or luncheonette that traffics in wraps, salads, and other modern contrivances, isn't a greasy spoon. Greasy spoons are dirty. Greasy spoons are dark. Greasy spoons are run by unkempt men in spotted white cook shirts and checkered pants, who generally look like they just came off a bender. Greasy spoons serve watery coffee and are open all night. Greasy spoons are for nighthawks. Greasy spoons are refuges for the sad and the defeated, who slump in chairs in the corner, shuddering at painful dreams.

Greasy spoons serve meat loaf that has been cooked a week before and is seared in thick slices in Lo-Melt on a filthy grill. Greasy spoons have dim lights and dust bunnies, and make things like veal breast, that nobody eats anymore. The food doesn't even try to be good. But it is, effortlessly, in the way of things that never wander from their essential natures. You don't need to tell a greasy spoon cook to make a grilled cheese sandwich crunchy, or that the sausage should be made of commodity pork. They don't boast of "our famous hamburgers" or have ethnic specialties on the menu. They take credit cards, but reluctantly. Their sodas come in thick gold-colored plastic tumblers. They don't deliver. They are to be found more often than not in dying cities and remote townships. They are not exactly the seamy underside of the American dream, or emblems of the evils of "food deserts." They are both above and below such things. They exist in a kind of mythic space, and all other restaurants have to live up, and down, to them. They matter, and they endure.

I am never really happy when I am not in one.

— Josh Ozerksy

· All Coverage of Greasy Spoons Week [~ENY~]