In my neck of the woods—the Jewish side of a New Jersey town—we didn’t even consider biscuits. Dough was for bagels and bialys. Biscuits were either something we gave the dog, or something popped out of a refrigerated cylinder. Lo and behold, I have now eaten biscuits, real biscuits, and they are worth their weight in bialys.
My husband Bill and I headed to Nashville for business and pleasure, respectively. His goal was professional, and mine was to take in the sights and breathe a bit of the South. After the recent 500 year flood, Nashvillians seem a little shell-shocked and a little “thrilled to see y’all.” Be assured, the city is quite cleaned up from that devastating flood, and is proud of having done the job pretty much by themselves. The honky-tonks are hopping; the streets are jumping with pedestrians and the sounds of guitars and fiddles. Southern rock and country are heard on street corners and in dry cleaners and just about everywhere. The lovely rolling green hills 10 minutes from downtown get an L.A. resident musing, “What would our town look like if we got a little rain once in a while?”
The Northgate Soda Shop in Greenville, South Carolina proved an elusive
target for a burger. But one can never keep a good burger seeker down.
Our trip across South Carolina continued as we headed east. In Columbia, we decided to call ahead to Greenville to make sure the Northgate Soda Shop would be open. “We are open until 8 o’clock”, said the voice on the other end. So we diverted our trip from Charlotte to Greenville specifically to hit Northgate. I had read this was one of the classic burger joints of all time in Hamburger America.
We arrived at seven o’clock only to find a closed Northgate. Walking next door to The Other Side Bar, owned by the same people, we were told the cook had gone home sick. Miffed, we left and headed to downtown Greenville for pizza.
The next morning we tried again for breakfast. Walking into Northgate one can travel back to 1947 when the place opened. Jim DeYoung had bought the place in the 60’s. Over the years he filled it with memorabilia he had been collecting. Old soda bottles, model boats, photos and traffic lights were arranged neatly on the shelves. Jim himself was there having coffee with his buddies. We were introduced to Jim by Tom Carr, the cook and host in the morning at Northgate. Tom’s sister Catherine Christophillis bought the shop a few years ago.
To reach the St. James Gate of Bethlehem, PA, you must thread your way through what seems like one of the last circles of Dante’s inferno: the lights and sounds of the casino are overwhelming. Outside, it’s noon on Sunday; here, however, in this windowless, arching cavern, this casino built on what was once a piece of the Bethlehem Steel Works, there is no sense of time.
But this is where we’ve come to pass some time before our film at the new neighboring ArtsQuest building begins. The pub, one of a number of restaurants ringing the casino floor, is beautiful, with thick carpeting and heavy dark wood; it’s almost possible to forget what we just traversed, until, from a table of seven, one voice rises querulously, “We’re not here to drink; we’re here to gamble.” Now her companions’ voices rise up. “Do we look like drinkers?” Watching the chastened waitress back away, I say, sotto voice, to my husband, “It’s a pub.” The waitress tells us that this happens often; she also tells us that she has a headache. We assure her that we have come to drink. When I ask what she recommends, I’m expecting her to say something like Guinness Extra Stout, but she tells me that Yuengling Light is the best. I agree to buy local, thinking that there is a fitting parallel here after all. Yuengling is the oldest brewery in this county; the Pottsville, PA company is the American equivalent of the original St. James Gate.
Before there was IHOP, there was Gwynn’s.
When I was a kid in suburban Teaneck, New Jersey, it was always a treat to go for Sunday brunch with my family at Gwynn’s on Teaneck Road. Gwynn’s seemed swanky and grown-up to me. Outside, it was painted white brick, and inside it was cool and darkish, with comfy booths. My mother would order her coffee, and the cream came in tiny, glass pitchers with little round cardboard pull-tabs on top. She only used a drop and then gave me the supreme pleasure of letting me drink the rest of the cream from its miniature jar. Sometimes, if she had a second cup, I got another taste of the thick, heavenly liquid that would contribute to the need for Lipitor years later. Compared to my very picky little sister, who ate only cream cheese and jelly, I was “a good eater” with a passion for pancakes, waffles and French toast.
This weekend I went to visit my friend who goes to University of New Hampshire. “You have to stop at Reins Deli on your way,” she told me, “It’s the best.” I doubted it, considering between New York and Los Angeles I’ve eaten my way through some pretty good pastrami and wasn’t expecting a rest stop en route to New Hampshire to even enter the top ten list...