Sunday, March 05, 2006

Morning ritual


When we went to Florida just over a year ago, we found a magical little breakfast place nearby that the kids absolutely loved. It was called Bagel Dream, and it was run by a one-of-a-kind lady who rode a Harley and knew all her customers as well as we know family and best friends. The banter was fascinating to watch, and it reminded me of what we're losing as franchises and chains gradually pave over the small-time entrepreneurs who used to define the local retail landscape.

Alas, when we returned this past December, the place had closed down. We'll never know if it was the hurricane, retirement, or whatever. No goodbyes or forwarding addresses...just an empty storefront.

The kids were quite upset. So we set out to find a new favorite haunt. Shelby's comes close. Handwritten menus say so much, I think, as do servers who hover over the table and take the time to chat with their clients.

The banter isn't quite as boisterous as the old place, but the comforting charm of the folks whose names were written across back of the the manual cash register quickly won our little people over. We'll be back next time we're down there.

Until then, we have fleeting glimpses like this picture to remind us why places like this are special. And wherever the now-former-owner of Bagel Dream is, I hope she's found a breakfast place as welcoming as the one she ran for so long.

Your turn: Are there any Bagel Dreams and Shelby's out there in your neck of the woods? What makes them such captivating places to have breakfast?

32 comments:

Maggie said...

Carmi, your post are alwyas so prolific.
I have a special Italian restaurant near my house in Orlando called Louie & Maria. It is the most authentic Italian restaurant outside of Southern Italy, I've found in the states.
They don't play around with the food, which is what I like and the owner knows us by name and I can call her ahead a time and place an order for the diningroom.
I luv the place.
Have a great Sunday
PS I have you blogroll how do I get you into my RSS FEED?
Maggie

jeni said...

i live in LA. need i say more?? lol!! i'm sure there are cutesy places out here like that, but in my 12 years of servitude out west, i've yet to find one.

i think its a regional thing. out here, there really isn't much "hospitality" (good lord, i'm probably going to be shot for that...) but back east, where i'm from...there was tons of it. perhaps it also has something to do with being southern too??

there was a spot in miami springs (where i used to live) that had a small cafe like that. always teeming with smiles & happy conversation. i miss it. i don't think its there anymore either. sad, isn't it?

vanx said...

To tell the truth, my magic breakfast place was the outside cafe on the marina at the World Financial Center. Haven't eaten breakfast there in almost five years. Now I usually eat in the Cafe Tercel on Bloomfield Avenue~somewhere on Bloomfield Avenue between my house and the Garden State Parkway. It's always somewhere different.
Rick

Plain Jane said...

When we lived in Virginia Beach, there was this truck weigh-in station. There wasn't even a sign posted anywhere that we saw in the 5 years we lived there - but on whim we stopped in.. and went back nearly every Sunday after.

The pleather seats had duct tape. Every one of them. After your first cup of coffee (good strong stuff) you were encouraged to get your own from the glass carafe in the center of the diner. They'd make sure the pots never ran out, but you'd get your 2nd cup faster if you helped yourself. You could sometimes overhear the truckers chatting up loved ones on the phones mounted over the tables on the back wall (somtimes it wasn't a lovey chat either). They were a friendly lot even though we were the oddballs there. Sports or news was always on the rickety corner televisions above (that you swore would fall off if someone sneezed).

We called it the Truck Stop and they knew our names there.

I miss that 3rd most about living at the beach.

ribbiticus said...

alas! we do not have places like that in the city anymore. i would have wanted to experience being in a diner like the one you described at least once in this lifetime...:)

utenzi said...

Michele sent me, Carmi.

There's still a fair number of places like that here where I live. I'm in a very small town in NC and while the franchises are definitely here in abundance there's still plenty of owner operated stores and restaurants around. But despite that, Waffle Houses are my favorite places--and often, in the small towns, the waitresses know many of the regulars by name.

Rhodent said...

There are several homey places that I like to frequent in my neck of the woods. I live in the south part of Clearwater,Florida... actually in the county between Clearwater and Largo. A little over a mile to the south of me is a place called "A Neighborhood Bistro." It used to be just a bar, but the man who bought it is a fabulous cook. There are about 8 tables in the place in addition to the bar. The owner is the cook. It is not unusual to pull into the parking area to see him standing out front watering the plants.

There are a couple of other family owned places nearby that I love as well, but I think the Bistro is my favorite!

Wonderful post, Carmi... as usual!

Linda said...

Living in Germany, there are very few "shelby's" here...but the local Backerei's are a dime a dozen, and each has something quite special about it. Within a one mile radius of my house, one can find 5 Backerei (say back a rye).

One other favorite hotspot in walking distance is Lido Eis Cafe...the BEST ice cream in the fanciest dishes imaginable. My goal is to eat everything on the menu (that is non-alcoholic) before I leave.

Visiting from Michele's, but will come often, your journalism shines through in your words, leaving vivid memories and nothing to the imagination!

Joan said...

When I was in college there was this place called "Jim's Diner." They got all of their dinnerware and utensils from garage sales and the like as it was all mismatched. There were a menagerie of different tables and chairs in there that were also gotten from garage sales or Goodwill.

On Saturday or Sunday late mornings, it was great to roll out of bed, get just decent enough not to be arrested, and walk down to Jim's. We walked because we were often still drunk from the night before.

They had the best breakfast EVER however again, it may be because we were still drunk from the night before. LOL!

kontan said...

we have a few places like that around here...all places are like that when we go to Dauphin Island, AL. we went through a period this past year where we were so sick of chain establishments. made some neat discoveries

kontan said...

here from micheles today

Dave said...

Not in this neck of the woods I'm afraid. Loads if you live in Brighton (8 miles down the road), here from Michele's this time.

Paste said...

Hi, just popped by from Michele's this evening, must go and make myself a snack!

Joe said...

There is a little place where I grew up call Pearl Cafe. It is family owned and the owners. The workers take the time to chat and get to know you. And, best of all, refills on coffee are free!

Here via Michele.

Kimberly said...

Here in Seattle, there are still a few small local breakfast spots. My favorite is Mae's Phinney Ridge Cafe, which has been around since the 1930s. The walls are covered with hand-painted murals and memorabilia, the food is homey, and the coffee is good (which is critical in Seattle).

Here from Michele's today.

Lazy Daisy said...

I live in a sleepy little rural town with one place to eat, get gas, or groceries (kind of like a Floyd's Barber Shop in Mayberry.) The pizza is always fresh and good and the local color will make dazel you. As always, fun to visit with you. Michele agrees!

sage said...

Such places are always a way to get into the community. When I lived in a small ski town in NYC, it was DJ's. Here we have a nice locally owned coffee shop and a real diner (but the later is so smokey I makes sure I go in there early in the morning before it's too much of a fog).

Anonymous said...

Hi Carmi! Reading this post reminded me of a time while visiting my sister in Abilene Texas. We wanted good mexican food, so we went to this little dive in the wall place in Buffalo Gap. It was owned and run by a lady who had more energy than my three kids put together. The kids were elementary school age and she came out and after talking to us all about our fav mexican flavors, took the kids back to the kitchen and they helped her prepare the meal!
She was also known for feeding the street people each night with her leftovers for the day as everything was made fresh daily.
Don't recall the name of her place...but places like that are a rare and fabulous find!
Ash
http://fivecrows.bravejournal.com

kenju said...

I hope the owner of Bagel Dream finds out what your family thought of her place. It may be small consolation, but I'll bet it would please her to know.

When we lived in Norfolk, there was a pancake place we went to often. We would place our son in his car seat on the table while we ate and all the waitstaff loved to talk to him and see him smile. When he was 1 1/2-3, they would serve him Silver-dollar pancakes and add extras if he wanted.They all knew our names and welcomed us. It was a place we really felt at home
and I have never found another place like that since.

Michele sent me this time.

Beanhead said...

Carmi, we don't so much have a breakfast place but we do have a little sandwich shop that serves handmade ice cream. I love to go in there because they know all their customers by name ands by ice cream. I walk in and they know it is a cake mix ice cream with peanut butter cups, no ice cream for my son only jelly beans and my girls want pretty much wahetever makes a big mess...:) I love Top Shelf and hope they never close!

Beanhead said...

oops forgot Michele sent me twice...:)

mooalex said...

Papa George's! Little 50s style diner... great breakfasts, homemade pototo chips, burgers & dogs... YUM! And it's within walking distance of my home. It doesn't get any better!

Thumper said...

I am just not a breakfast person...if there's a breakfast kinda place like that, I'll never know about it.

There are a lot of little hole in the wall mexican places out here that are suposedly verrrrrry good, and I always intend to try them...I just never get around to it.

I take that back. we did go to one once because we were told the fajitas were amazing. The Spouse Thingy thought they were, but they put mushrooms in them, and I could not get the server nor the cook to understand NO MUSHROOMS OR I'LL DIE. I really need to learn to speak Spanish...

Here via Michele's...woulda gotten here anyway :)

kenju said...

Nothing new has come to mind since I was here a while ago, Carmi.

Michele sent me back.

srp said...

Here from Michele.
When you asked your question I glanced at the title of the next post down and wouldn't you know it... there was the name of our gem... The Front Door.
Homemade chicken salad sandwiches and soups. Homemade Minnonite buns. The lady who ran it knew all her customers and knew how to pick one of a kind items for the gift shop as well. Sadly, we moved away from Mississippi. I miss this the most. Then last year she died suddenly, a shock for all. It is still hard to believe I can't call her and order a take out or her special Caramel Almond Delight dessert. Things happen, times change, thank goodness for the memories.

Jennifer said...

Those types of places truly are a gem. I have yet to find one.

Plumkrazzee said...

No bagel dreams, but my uncle does own the "bagel company". Actually, he did own it, he just sold it and is moving to California now. I was so bummed, as it was such a neat place to hang out. Kind of like CHEERS, everybody knew your name. Not to mention family got free bagels. =) A carb lovers dream come true! I wish there was more "mom and pop" kind of places, I support them, and know the community would welcome them also...unfortunately big chains have the capital and thus the market.

d.challener roe said...

I live in L.A. so there probably are, but none that I've found. That's one of the reasons--though admittedly a small reason--that we're moving out of the big city.

Oh, and Michele sent me.....

deana said...

Oh yes! We love to support our mom and pops. You just can't buy charm or characters that always hang out at the counter.

Killired said...

wow... nope... can't think of one around here... all the mom and pop pharmacies and groceries closed up years ago :( i used to work at the mom and pop pharmacy... am i old to say those were the good ol days? :)

jude said...

its always refreshing and exciting to visit restaurants that are not part of a national chain. I am fortunate to live in area that has quite a few local owned and operated gems.

deputyswife said...

My favorite places to eat are the little out of the way places. They have good food, good service, and fantastic prices!

Also, my dad was a small business owner for years. We always try to give our business to the small businesses whenever we can.