[Please note: This “mock review” is for a fictional diner from my latest book — Y’s Punishment.]
Last week I stumbled upon a hidden gem right here in downtown: Randy’s Diner. Behind a bank of reflective windows on the edge of the CBD, sits an establishment marked only by a tasteful black sign with silver sans serif letters and a line of customers stretched around the block at the start of each hour. The queue of eager individuals straining to see inside the lobby doors made me question what could be found behind the intriguingly covert windows. Giggles and grins were exchanged with only the vague response of, “Only the best service in the city!” Clearly I wasn’t part of the inside joke. My interest was piqued!
One helpful patron suggested I call ahead for a reservation and was kind enough to give me a business card emblazoned with the same black and silver logo as the restaurant’s sign. I went home, and did just that. My reservation was set for the following day at promptly three.
I arrived with ten minutes to spare, just in time to catch the exodus of the previous shift’s customers. Not a one carried a frown. In fact, each patron had what I can only describe as a stupid grin stretched across their faces. I was further intrigued.
What was inside Randy’s Diner, I wondered. A motion ride with a side of French fries? A comedy club featuring burger-slinging slapstick? Singing Elvises juggling onion rings? What could possibly account for the broad smiles of the departing individuals?
I stopped one male, who preferred to remain anonymous, to ask what he’d ordered and how he’d enjoyed it. The blank expression following the question was a minor surprise. As was his quote of, “A burger. I think. I didn’t really eat it.” Based on that answer, the motion ride idea built momentum in the back of my mind.
Finally the line ahead of me breached the inner door to the elusive Randy’s Diner.
I was mildly surprised to find the interior fitting for a quintessential fifties diner set within the renovated downtown building. Neon signs for Pepsi, Budweiser, and Betty Paige adorned the walls in between the framed photographs of Elvis, the Beatles, and the Stones. Aluminum tables with clean, sparkled tops sat atop a black and white checkered tile floor. And I can’t forget the iconic red patent leather cushioned chairs.
The proprietor himself stood at the host station just inside the door, checking initials against the reservation book. Upon giving mine, I was given a plastic chip with my number, and asked to stand over to the right side. There were spots for “Randy’s Regulars”, “Booth Reservations”, and “Everyone Else”. I got to stand in the Everyone Else zone.
The fun began when a line of wait staff appeared from the Staff Only door. Clad in navy skirts and shorts too short to be considered mini, white shirts too tight to be considered decent, and cliché blue suede shoes, the servers’ uniforms would have had the King himself blushing. Each individual sported a black nametag with a single silver letter stamped in the middle. From the boy or girl next door to the grandmother who bakes you cookies for mowing her lawn, Randy had a waiter or waitress to satisfy every taste.
One by one, the eager patrons called letters until the coyly smiling wait staff dwindled down to the B-team. Despite my reservation, my status as an “Everyone Else” only got me so far. I did, however, manage to score an attractive olive-skinned male named “X” as my server.
X eased me into the diner’s unique flow, offering suggestions and advice on how best to enjoy my forty-five minutes. While he fetched me a soda, I took to perusing the menu and found some rather shocking information. Printed with prominence was the slogan, “Service with little more than a smile.” Beside it was a tip suggestion chart containing more euphemisms than the last bodice ripper I’d read. Below that were games patrons could pay to get discounts. I was dubious of having a drink dumped on me but the menu claimed it would earn me a free meal.
My server helped me craft the perfect burger and French fries. He placed the order at the typical diner kitchen window while I searched for the motion ride I was still hoping for. My search merited me no digital thrills but there were thrills a plenty. Randy’s Diner takes its slogan, “Service with little more than a smile,” as literally as is legally possible.
I shamefully availed myself of a few of the items on tip suggestion chart in between waiting for my meal and my complementary drink refills. X gave me the best service of any waiter in the entire city, and arguably of anywhere I’ve eaten to date. And when I left, I too couldn’t remember how the burger had tasted because like the earlier patron, I hadn’t really eaten it.
If you’re looking for a unique experience with a side of burgers, Randy’s Diner is for you. However, be sure to make a reservation, come prepared with a stuffed wallet, and an open mind. My reservation is already booked for next time. And this time it’s for a private booth!