Tuesday, April 14, 2009

In Search of...a place where "everybody knows your name"

If you talk to my father for any more than five minutes you will undoubtedly hear about "The Diner." He will tell you not only what a great deal it is, and how no other restaurant compares to it (and I do mean no other restaurant), but he will tell you about the people there - his friends.

On my more cynical days I would tell you that he is exaggerating, or set in his ways, or just plain old, but this is not one of my more cynical days, and having just had a wonderful conversation with one of the owners, I too am waxing poetic about the virtues of "The Diner."

First off, I'd like to clarify which diner I'm referring to (and they are in no way compensating me to do that- though swag is always gratefully accepted, even in the form of food!). I'm talking about the Central Plaza Diner in Yonkers, New York.

At first glance this is just your average, ordinary diner - that is if you don't know any better. But to me it's not only the best place to get great food at a reasonable price, it's the place I return to in New York where (sing the Cheers theme with me) everybody knows my name. They not only know my name, they know what town I live in, that I'm a songwriter, and my beverage preferences to boot.

The staff have all pretty much been there as long as the diner has, and the "regulars" have developed a rapport not only with them, but with each other as well. It is a family of sorts, and it extends beyond the walls of the diner.

On any given day you will see senior citizens, families with young children, local police officers, and the rest of the general population at large eating there side by side. There will be every race, religion, and ethnicity represented, and you might hear a variety of languages besides English that include Spanish, Greek, and Italian among others.

As I take it all in, I am aware that this is America at its finest. This is the melting pot that we have forgotten about in recent years as divisiveness has permeated our society. This is where mutual respect and cohesiveness live.

I have to think that the owners have a lot to do with it. Dino and Andy, brothers from Cypress, will often sit down a minute and share a joke, a story, or the latest sports scores. They know what's going on with their customers - who has triumphed at the local casino that just opened, and who is in the hospital. In some ways the diner is more the pulse of the community than the local newspaper and TV station.

It is a place where I feel warm and welcomed, understood and known. How many places are there in today's high tech world that you can say that about?

So, like my father and his buddies Kenny, Angelo, and all the rest, I am sentimental about this diner and the people who inhabit it. When I walk in and they say, "Hi Ilene," I know that I am home - where "everybody knows my name."

Thanks for stopping by, and tell your friends.

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