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Cold Diner. Warm Hearts

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

We looked at the menu tentatively. Actually, we looked all around the restaurant while the fight or flight instinct crept into our throats. "Do you want to leave?" My husband asked while mentally calculating what our excuse would be to the kind server.

I probably noticed this restaurant around the 2000's when I started driving and considering myself a food aficionado ( I was not, but 20 year-olds think they know everything). In all the years I have lived here and passed this restaurant, I have never gone in. It's cute from the outside -- green awnings, great vintage font advertising "Roxy's Cafe". But, it did not scream "hip joint for foodies". I wondered what kind of restaurant it was, but not enough to ever go in and eat.

What brought my husband and I in today was desperation. An impromptu date -- just breakfast led us to this, our third attempt at a restaurant after trying to find parking, being told the kitchen was closed, getting stuck in construction, facing a parking ticket, trying to find parking, missing breakfast but still not wanting lunch and the general madness that comes from low blood sugar and trying to park on street cleaning day in the city.

Roxy's Cafe was a diner. A diner that had not been painted, repaired, touched up, or maybe even cleaned since the cute font on the window had been etched on. Torn black carpet pitted with cigarette burns and the remains of "welcome" er...welcomed us as the hostess nodded to us to walk past torn booths towards the back. Brown, bubbly insulation oozed out from around the window units like hardened lava. A Van Gogh print hung on a wall with scrapes, smudges, black streaks, and nail holes from what I can only guess were previous Van Goghs meeting their doom when crashing to the floor. The floor was cracked...or maybe caked with food. It was hard to tell. And as we sat with our plastic menus in hand trying to remember what brought us here in the first place, I noticed something.

A couple in each corner were happily munching on huge baskets of fries. I heard laughter over massive plates of buttery bread piled so high it looked like it could topple over. A man was peacefully doing a crossword puzzle with his tie tucked into his shirt. A woman sipping tea and playing candy crush on her phone licked her fingers in between bites. A pile of teenagers were smooshed into one side of a booth grabbing food from one another's plates and dipping it into ketchup. Dirty dishes were piled on empty tables where, like a rabbit darting into a hole, a gentleman in a dirty apron rushed to get to all of them to make room for more people that had just arrived. People kept arriving. Plates cleared, tables wiped, seated, seated, seated.

The server smiled at us so warmly that my husband and I looked up at her and forgot that we were leaving and ordered breakfast. A cheese, mushroom, and onion omelet for me with breakfast potatoes. A classic eggs over-easy dish for him -- rye toast and black coffee. The snow outside began whipping around wildly. The green awnings flapped in the wind. The huge windows framed bundled people fighting the squall and skipping down the sidewalk. I don't know if music was playing but all of a sudden I felt warm inside. This greasy-spoon diner with no tablecloth, dirty walls, and cutlery so cheap a thick stew could bend the spoon, was casting a spell on me.

Our food came out not too quick, not too slow; a good sign my husband said. My 3-egg omelet was the length of my entire plate. My husband's eggs were cooked to perfection. The food was not over salted. The potatoes were...delicious. I quit noticing the grime and worn out carpet and started noticing my husband's laugh lines and handsome smile. How yummy the potatoes were. How happy everyone seemed. Before I knew it, I had cleared my plate.

Food brings us together. In that diner on that blustery winter morning across from the man I love; a tablecloth, candle, and four course meal didn't matter. All that mattered was that I had a plate of warm food, a full belly, a seat out of the cold, and we left satisfied. It's obviously what the regulars already knew -- good food is made with love and eating at a table with people you love is what makes it special.

This is what we try to do at Bebop's. It's not about fancy food that only has French names and sauces that have to be emulsified (although we are big fans). It's about gathering around a table. It's about creating a space to talk, taste, breath, reminisce, and celebrate -- sometimes over soup and grilled cheese, if that's what's available. It's about giving you permission to enjoy life's inconsequential moments; like snow blowing through a city street, or baby in a highchair trying mashed potatoes for the first time. It's about that glow you feel from a hot stove, a warm plate, and the smile of a stranger.

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