Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Diner memories


Nostalgia in a glass
Ottawa, Ontario, August 2006 [Click to embiggen the refreshment]

On our way home from Montreal last week, we took the kids to Ottawa because they had never been there, and we felt our little family needed an adventure.

We stayed at a lovely hotel. We explored the city. We did the touristy things that tourists do, and we had a wonderful time (my wife has written about it here.) On our last night there, we took the kids to Zak's Diner. Even though Zachary's name is shortened to Zach and not Zak, we figured it was close enough for us.

It also reminded us of the beloved Five and Diner restaurant that was a beacon of normalcy when we first drove into town with a hungry two-year-old almost a decade ago. We knew no one here, and it was the only place that was open on a snowy Christmas Eve. It quickly became his favorite eatery, and he was very upset - as were we - when it closed a few years back.

Looking around Zak's, it was hard to ignore the atmosphere of the place. Pastel-ish blue, accented by a riot of old signs, chrome and vinyl. The light was comforting: dim, soft, and entirely reminiscent of American Graffiti. I tried to take pictures of my drink that evoked the warmth of the light.

I could see why people liked to eat there: it was a welcoming place to be.

But it was late. Noah fell asleep toward the end of our visit. We skipped the free ice cream that came with their meals and instead promised them we'd make an ice cream date back home. As we scooped up our kids and walked out, I couldn't help but think that every town needs a diner. And every child needs a place that will stick in his/her mind for a long time to come.

Your turn: Do you have a fond diner memory? What makes places like this so appealing?

16 comments:

CanEragon said...

How KEWL is that. My inlaws live in Ottawa and we go to Zak's every time we go to the city. It's a great place to go eat. It's so much fun !!!

You know - one day when you come to Montreal - you and I will have to meet.

There aren't too many "diners" here, I mean we go to Club Sandwich and Nickels or even Schwart's or Ben's for smoke meat. But Zak's is unique I love the Booth seating and the retro look.

What a great visit for some great food and wonderful views.

Cheers
Jeremy

moon said...

My sister lives in Ottawa, will have to go to Zak's next time we are there...
Carmi that pic made me get up for a drink as soon as I saw it lol...
My latest different dining experience was in Niagara Falls 2 weeks ago..at the RAIN FOREST...friends who live in the area took us..it was alot of fun with the whole jungle atmosphere, great for kids..the animatronic animals all over were pretty cool too...and every 15 minutes u hear and see a lightening storm, flashes of light with the loud clap of thunder etc. there are also 2 huge aquariums with tropical fish and even a few sharks..great fun. It brought out the kid in all of us lol

atpanda said...

Its 'cause the feel homey, you know? When we were kids we never got to go out to eat. I remember one time we were camping and coming down off a huge mountain and blew a tire. My dad lost control and we ran into the side of the mountain. We were all, thankfully, just fine, but my mom, brother, and my friend Laura and I got to catch a ride into the closest town while my dad waited for a tow truck. We had the most greasy, delicious dinner in a dive diner and even got to spend the night in a hotel! It was heaven for a little kid.

Jennifer said...

On my travels this spring, I ended up at the Marietta Diner in Georgia with a new friend that I met at church. She and I talked for two hours that night, and have stayed in touch ever since. I think that's about my fondest diner experience, since we don't have many diner-type restaurants around here.
If you're ever in Tennessee, there's a Five & Diner in Nashville. I've eaten there once...it was yummy! :)

Pickalish said...

My favorite memory is of the Happy Diner. They had the telephones in your booth where you called in your order. It was great....just closed last year.

Leanne said...

Oh how I miss the Five and Diner. It is one of my frst memories if London as well. I remember coming here as a teen and going there for breakfast with my friends. Oh how i miss the food and the milk shakes :)

carli said...

I'm from New Jersey, so my experience with diners is vast. I guess I love that you can show up at 3 a.m. with your friends after a movie or party and get pretty much whatever you want to eat, and sometimes run into guys who look like actor Richard Masur.

Sweetie said...

There is a little old joint on one of the main thoroughfares in my area that dates back to the 50s or before. They still serve the best soft-serve icecream and even rootbeer which they make themselves in their own still!

kenju said...

My favorite diner is in Arlington, VA, called Silver Diner. We have only one here in Raleigh, and I don't go there regularly, as it is too far from my beaten path.

I think diners bring nostalgia for simpler times.

surcie said...

I used to live close to the Silver Diner that Kenju mentioned, and I miss it! They have a huge menu and really good food. Something for everybody.

Linda said...

diner memories is more like it. I worked as a waitress in a bar/nightclub. It closed at 2 a.m. and I generally worked till closing. All the waitstaff and barstaff would go to a local diner after closing - just sit and eat breakfast, drink coffee and jabber on until 5 a.m. Then head home to sleep till noon, and start all over again.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

So interesting Carmi...I don't have a particular diner memory but what came to mind was the local small Bowling Alley in the then Small Town I grew up in. We went there after school and bowled and ate hamburgers. I'm not even sure they were good hamburgers, but they sure tasted good to us! (Our palette's had not been as highly developed back then....(lol)

Diva said...

Great picture, Carmi. I really wasn't introduced to real diners until my late teens, but I really love the nostalic air of them - you can't get that slice of Americana anywhere else. And these new faux diners that are chain restaurants just aren't the same.

Plain Jane said...

There's one diner in particular that comes to mind... "Frank's Diner" on Rt. 1. I used to go there every other day with my co-workers and we would just sit, drink coffee, and eat dry cake from underneath a glass cake dish. We called it "conversation, coffee & calorie" lunch. It was nice to have friends to do that with.

Stacy said...

Marie Calendars. We used to go there once a week as a family, and the waitresses would take my little brother and carry him around and spoil him to death. Those were fun memories.

CG said...

I loved the Empire Diner in NYC. Wish we had them in the UK