A Tribute to Greasy Spoons

If you’re taking a family road trip this summer, make it a point to seek out vintage mom and pop diners.

Your kids will not remember the 200th McDonald’s drive thru or the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Savannah that is nearly identical to the other 500+ Cracker Barrels in the world. Going to Denny’s, Applebee’s, or IHOP is safe. But safe and predictable are not the reasons children need to take family vacations.

Your kids will remember the place where the jukebox played only Dolly Parton or the special of the day was pickled pig’s snout. They’ll marvel at the spinning pastries. Forever, they will quote the waitress who stuck her pencil up in her babushka, called your son, “Sweetie pie,” and yelled your entire order in greasy spoon slang to Festus the short order cook.

Mom and Dad, when it comes to greasy spoons, I hope you have your own list of memories to make you smile. I encourage you to share them with your kids.

As for me, I can still picture the Coffee Cup Restaurant in Clintonville, Wisconsin. When I was a kid, it was the halfway stop for the annual Payleitner caravan heading up north to the cottages on Pine Lake.

Then, there’s that Greek diner in Rockford, Illinois. That’s where, during a break in one of my son’s club soccer tournaments, I first told him where babies come from.

And I’ll never forget the just-off-the-tollway diner in Pennsylvania where Alec forgot his Dodgers baseball cap. We drove back 30 miles to retrieve it.

Be warned. Your stop at that vintage diner may completely backfire on you. Bad coffee. Burnt toast. Mushy veggies. Sticky floors. Nasty servers. Nasty restrooms. And spoons that are little too greasy. But that’s still a parenting victory, yielding eye rolls and family stories for years to come.

Giving your children a taste of vintage America is never a waste. That includes introducing them to soda fountains, roller rinks, historic motels, five and dime stores, boardwalk amusements, and drive-in movies.

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