Sometimes while traveling on a long road trip, finally seeing a sign of a restaurant is like seeing an oasis in the dessert. I haven’t actually eaten at this particular place, but I love this sign from a diner in Minneapolis, mostly because of its complete lack of humbleness. Also, as if the boastful name weren’t enough to entice you, the words “EAT” appear in neon with a flashy arrow leaving little doubt as to what one is expected to do next. And were I to spot it on one of those long road trips, it would definitely be my first choice. What I love about these roadside diners is that they managed to survive all of these years. They’re like little time capsules from the 50’s that managed to outlive all the change in the world and stuck around to delight us nearly 70 years later. So many things seem to disappear as time goes by, so it’s wonderful to see places that defiantly stay with us into the future, reminding us of our not so distant past. While there’s much to be said for the new and improved, the time-tested things in the world will always hold my heart.

It’s been many years since I was on a long road trip. I had a bit more time when I was younger, though, so I could experience this slower way to travel much more. Though the scenery was lovely and new, what I remember most were the odd and wonderful places we would find to eat along the way.  Though the food was not always particularly nutritious, it was perfectly American and always felt like home. Those wonderfully reddish, golden brown and yellowish plates of food where the only green came in the form of a sprig of lettuce on the edge or specs of green onions in a potato salad. Philippe, coming from Paris, is still both fascinated and appalled by the lack of greenery in so many of these dishes of Americana. But to me, it just transports me back to a childhood with amazing Kansas City barbecue and thick-cut french fries.  And though I’ve developed a more sophisticated menu as an adult, I’m not a food snob in the least. There’s still no denying that frying something within an inch of its life makes it taste pretty incredible!

And what I loved most about those diners along the road were the people in them. Locals who eat there regularly, showing up with that day’s newspaper in hand, and the owner, busy and slightly disheveled who took great pride in the food they just created. As they should. It was created in that perfectly old-fashioned way that wasn’t that dissimilar to what a mom or dad might prepare for their own children. When food is made with pride and love, it always tastes so much better. It’s this invisible ingredient that makes all of the difference in the world. It’s the same ingredient, that I hope we all apply to our daily sketches or whatever we create each day. It’s a wonderfully intangible addition that transcends technique or color choice and adds a touch of emotion to what we create. No matter what we make, the approach should always be the same. My hope is that we all make things without any sense of humbleness, thinking instead, that what we create is indeed ideal. At least, to someone out there experiencing it with a smile. There will always be someone who likes it. That’s what I learned on those long road trips, enjoying those wonderful and unique little treats that can always be found in roadside dining.

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About the Doodlewash

M. Graham Watercolors: Indian Yellow, Pyrrol Red, Permanent Green Light, Cobalt Teal, and Turquoise. Photo Reference: Jerry HuddlestonLamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Day 11 - Roadside Dining Ideal Diner - Doodlewash

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18 thoughts on “Roadside Dining

  1. Love your diner sign! Definitely a symbol of age of innocence (at least we see it as that now). My hubby loves apocalyptic movies and you see these diners in them often, I think for that very reason.

  2. Charlie, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You are an absolute doll! Love your art and essays that you give so freely. You are inspiring!

  3. I loved loved to days story. But road side food some times i finding not good . make me sick but if no choice closed the eyes .
    I liked the line ,” when the food …pried n love..
    And the road side food not…… .
    Thanks so much lie

  4. Fantastic job on the roadside sign. Your post brought back memories of cross-country road trips my family made in the summer from L.A. back to see relatives in New England. Circa 1960s. We ate in many of these wonderful places. I especially loved breakfast in small towns where we would see the locals sitting around their usual table, everybody familiar with the waitresses and with each other. Such a great part of our country that is fast disappearing!

  5. When we lived in Chicagoland, hubs and I went to this diner called Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket that was famous for being at the beginning of Route 66. They had a lot of delish fried foids, and the chicken was out of this world. Good thing we only went a couple of times a year.

  6. “frying something within an inch of its life makes it taste pretty incredible!” I sincerely hope Philipwe was not looking over your shoulder when you typed this LOL. At the moment I despair of motorway service areas in the UK. Macdonalds and BurgerKing dominate – rarely hot, always brown, and harrassed, surly servers. I long for the the Little Chef days which were fried food to be sure, but with china and service (often with a smile).

    1. haha! Thankfully, Philippe doesn’t read these posts… hehe… though he does help me now with sound check for the podcast, so if this one ever appears there I’ll be outed! 😊And yay to the Little Chef… Even if your plate is beige, just serve it to me on an actual plate and be proud! It will always taste better!

  7. The sign is great!! Those neon lights were always an attraction. Roadside trips were the best. We used to call them “Mom & Pop” restaurants or “Local Yocals.” There are still a few left in and around the small town where I grew up but not many. It was not unusual to go to a “firehall” dinner or breakfast on a short roadtrip too.

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