A few weeks ago I was with another man in the courtesy shuttle of the dealership where we had left our cars for repairs. He asked to be dropped off “on Main St, near Pratt.” The shuttle driver instantly asked “Maddie’s?” After the smile and affirmative response, I knew that I had found a new breakfast spot. The following morning, a coworker and I (the only ones to arrive at work by 6:30 am) enjoyed a breakfast sandwich made with 2 eggs, bacon and cheese served on a hard roll. The sandwich was still piping hot by the time I got it to our office and we wondered why we had ever eaten at McDonald’s.
Later that evening, I called my best friend. John is a walking reference of places to eat. Not only can you ask him to recommend a good restaurant, you can ask him based on the type of meal you want to eat. John has traveled a lot, so his knowledge isn’t confined to Connecticut; I have gotten good references for steak places in Boston, Cincinnati, Minneapolis and Italian food in those and several other cities. John is always interested in new place to eat, but he’s a comparison shopper. When I told him about Maddie’s, his first question was “how is it compared to Allegro?”
That’s a tough question; they’re very different places even though they serve the same meals to a similar clientele. Allegro, as the name suggests is Italian and the food is influenced by that fact. Instead of white, rye or wheat toast, the waiter will tell you that “you can have Italian or Italian!” I am very fond of the Allegro Eggro breakfast sandwich, which is bacon, egg and cheese on grilled Italian bread. I like mine with fresh sliced tomato, which is an option. Where Maddie’s has some healthy options on their menu, Allegro will melt a slice of cheese over anything. After discussing the merits of each place, we agree that we have to meet at Maddie’s so John can decide for himself.
One of my favorite fast food breakfast memories is from the Burger Chef that used to be in the basement of the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. I attended graduate school at Pitt, and my classes were in the Cathedral. I would frequently start the day with an egg, cheese and bacon sandwich which also included a slice of tomato.
Burger Chef lost the burger and breakfast war to McDonald’s (eventually being gobbled-up by Hardee’s) but, ironically, places like Allegro and Maddie’s still exist. I have traveled a lot for business, but I rarely eat breakfast in a fast food venue. I have been able to find diner-style breakfasts almost everywhere I have ever been.
One of my favorite childhood memories is associated with the Dairy Store in Bridgeville, PA. It’s gone now, but the location still seems to be a restaurant. My father managed a bowling alley up the street from the Dairy Store, and he and I and the owner would spend Saturday mornings cleaning. My job for a long time was cleaning the pits; yeah the places where the pins landed and the pin boys worked their magic. It was hard work, but in addition to our wages, the owner always treated us to lunch. He would send me to the Dairy Store for hard salami, American cheese, a jar of pickles and half a dozen Benvenuti rolls. When I returned, we ate, as he liked to say: “like men.” That meant that we used our fingers to get those pickles out of the jar, and we sampled slices of salami and cheese while building our sandwiches.
My summer job when I was in college was up the street from the Dairy Store at the Post Office in Bridgeville. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, my job often involved working a split-shift which had me starting at 3:00am and working until 6:30. I would stop at the Dairy Store, and while almost everyone else was eating breakfast, I would order a cheeseburger. You can’t do that at fast food places – certain items are available during certain hours and that’s it. Show up at 6:30 and you’re eating breakfast. Last week, I stopped at Maddie’s at 6:15am, but not for breakfast. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to get out of the office for lunch, and I was hoping I could order a Pastrami sandwich to go. It might have been an odd request, but the answer was “sure hon, anything you want!” Seriously, why do I ever stop for fast food?