april 1st, where food goes to die, the lucky penny diner, san francisco
Overheard: “if the United States had lost the war and become a Soviet Block country, this is the kind of food we’d be eating in the diners.”
And it’s true. This is horrible stuff. It’s where food goes to die. (Twice.)
As the door to the kitchen swings open, one can see the rows of plus-sized generic-label cans of vegetables that supply the diner. The lone waitress for the whole dining room comes and goes from the kitchen with her arms full of plates of bad food moving one way, and dirty dishes with half-eaten food the other. Your wait for her attention is time best spent deciding whether or not you’ll stay a minute longer.
For my main, I ordered a hot turkey sandwich because, well, I used to like those growing up. The one presented to me here was a nightmare. The slices of deli turkey were dried out. There was a greenish tinge to some of the edges. The slices of white bread were a little stale, too. The gravy was bland with a sort of film on the top, covering the sandwich and the mashed potatoes in a gelatinous goo. They were instant mashed, but by now that was expected. Ok, you can’t really mess those up; I added salt and
butter margarine. And pepper. Yes, you certainly do have a choice of sides here, and all of them have shelf-lives in the dozens of years. Copper penny carrots, grey-ish kernels of corn, mushy green beans- you might remember any or all of these from the school lunch program with which you grew up. Yuck. There’s a memory I didn’t want.
The service was awful. Not that the waitress was mean. She wasn’t. The part of her psyche that could get angry, sad, or be pluckily ironic, or ironically plucky, was probably long dead. She was just. . . blank.
Some restaurants harken back to the past with sort of nod to nostalgia. Not this place. No whimsical memorobilia on the shelves here. There’s nothing joyous in this dusty place. It’s just that old, and hasn’t been renovated in that long. The furniture has aged. The vinyl booths have torn and discolored. Try not to touch that vinyl with any exposed skin. And, don’t buy the open-faced hot turkey sandwich.