Long Live the Greasy Spoon

Chicken fried steak, turkey dinner highlight the simple food at Chaffin's Family Restaurant.

If you are looking for a nicely decorated restaurant, do not go to Chaffin's Family Restaurant. Do not go there if you are expecting five-star service. Do not go there if you're looking to eat after 3 in the afternoon.

Do go there, however, if you are looking for some delicious, all-American grub for breakfast or lunch.

I met Emil Franzi, The Weekly's resident right-winger, for lunch there on a recent Wednesday afternoon. We had several things to talk about, primarily: guns.

Really. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

When I arrived at Chaffin's, the first thing I was struck by was how ugly the place is. It looks like it hasn't been redecorated for at least 25 years. People who have been around town longer than I have tell me the building has been home to a series of greasy spoon-type restaurants over the years, including a Sambo's. Well, the place looks like a Sambo's--brown booths, a white floor that seriously needs to be replaced, and a long counter.

This décor--or lack thereof--actually encouraged me. Over the years, I have learned that for some reason, greasy spoons with an ugly atmosphere tend to have great food. I have no idea why, but they do.

Emil noted the key dish at any greasy spoon is the chicken fried steak, so that's what he ordered ($7.45) with a biscuit on the side. I went with another greasy spoon classic, the turkey dinner ($7.25) with meatball soup. I also ordered a side salad ($1.95).

The server politely took our orders and left Emil and me to have our discussion. We chatted about guns, school boards and greasy spoons as I watched the cars on Broadway Boulevard zoom by. It was an interesting experience, for sure.

Our entrées came quickly, and they looked delicious. Too bad my soup and salad hadn't arrived yet. The server apologized for this, and asked me if I wanted them anyway. I said yes--normally I would have declined, but I wanted to try them out--and they were promptly delivered. Having no idea where to start, I dove in.

The salad was simple--fresh romaine lettuce, tomato slices and cucumber slices--in a small bowl. The soup was decent, although in terms of flavor, the broth needed something--it was pretty flavorless. The meatballs were good, though.

And that leaves the main courses. With enthusiasm, Emil and I chowed down.

My turkey dinner (it's called a "dinner entrée" on the menu even though the restaurant closes at 3 p.m.--go figure) was amazing. The slices of delicious, moist turkey covered a pile of homemade stuffing, next to a large pile of homemade mashed potatoes. Gravy covered it all. (I bet my cholesterol level went up 30 points that day.) It was delicious, and I cleaned my plate.

Emil enjoyed his chicken fried steak as well. It was covered in a white gravy, and I managed to talk Emil into letting me have a bite. It was tasty--not the best I have ever had, but on the plus side of average. Emil agreed, giving it a B grade--a huge compliment from a picky eater like Emil.

The meal wasn't without further hitches, however--all of them service-related. Emil didn't get his biscuit, and unfortunately, our server never stopped to ask us how we were doing--and Emil had to hail her several times before she took notice. Then, it took seemingly forever for her to take our dirty dishes, and when she did, she didn't ask us if we wanted dessert. This wait was a problem, seeing as Emil had his radio show to do. She was pleasant; I don't know whether she was overwhelmed, new or what. I just know that the service could have been much better--even at a greasy spoon.

When we finally did get her attention, Emil ordered blueberry pie à la mode ($3.75) for dessert, and I got the apple pie à la mode ($3.75). They, too, were delicious--sweet, with flaky crusts. I asked our server if they were made at the restaurant, and she said they indeed were.

After dessert, I paid the check and Emil headed off to do his show. I then headed back to the office, full and satisfied.

Long live the greasy spoon!

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