I dont know how you grew up, but I grow up a po white child. I suppse we were lucky because I grew up in Las Vegas and Vegas in the 70’s was a cheap place to eat. Those were the days of $1.99 prime rib dinners at the Eldorado or any of the old time hotels downtown on Fremont street. And for clarification, I mean the old cool Fremont street, not the covered silliness.
Anyway my parents used to take us to hotel buffets which were cheap and had enough food on hand for growing kids. When we visited Montana and hotels with cheap buffets were a scarcity, we would eat at diners, good stick to your ribs greasy spoon places. Just the sight of this type of place brings back memories of when we lived in Montana and mom and I would travel around Montana servicing oxygen concentrators. We would hit all manner of small town diner and it was usually cheap and it was almost always good.
Its because I have roots in these types of places that when I walked into Breck’s a few night ago, that memories filled my brain. The smell of old cigarette smoke and food and bad coffee are like time machines that warp me back to my childhood. Unlike eating at expensive places, I feel completely at ease here. I can almost see my family sitting in one of the booths. The booths are stained plywood. The butts of many a big un have polished the seats to a mirror shine. The sign in front says seat yourself.
My waitreess is like every waitress in these places, chatty, loud, friendly, calls you hun and says yes mam and yes sir a lot. I have seen her before, hundreds of times. I think that people are born to some jobs. These women are certainly born to this one. They are insanely hard working people that have lived hard happy lives. Mine asks me what I want to drink. I have no choice, I am in a southern diner, its sweet tea, everyone has it, I am not sure why they even ask. She comes back with a tea that must be in a liter sized glass. I think I got up about 5 times that night to pee as a result of said drink.
My waitress also brings me the menu which has surprisingly few items. This is a meat place and meat is what is on the menu. There are about 7 steak choices. Steak is what people come here for and that is what they serve. The first item on the list is a 52oz sirloin, to be fair it says “meant for 2 people” I should hope to shout. There is one steak under 20 oz on the menu and its a fillet mignon. The rest are huge. I choose the 22oz ribeye. The waitress asks me what sides I want. She rattles of a list a mile long that included, corn, green bean, squash, sweet potatoes, and may others that I don’t remember but I do remember the last option was mac and cheese. HA! Mac and cheese with a 22oz ribeye. Yes just in case my heart doesn’t seize up from the meat. I can finish it off with the mac and cheese. I also get a choice of potatoe and there is every form available. I choose mashed, she asks “Do you want brown gravy on those?”. Yes of course I will have brown gravy.
Note, the menu says at the bottom “Because of the thickness of our steaks, we are unable to cook them well done”.
As I am sitting there waiting for my salad two people walk in, a man and a woman. They are of such equal size and shape that it appears they were poured out of the same mold and this mold was not small. I would give them a 400-450lb range. They squeezed into the booth across from me. This place is not helping them one bit and should be doing what bars do to drunk people, tell them they have had enough. I feel sorry for the drive that they must feel to come to this place. A place where that 52oz monster with all the fixins for two, was under 20 dollars. That is death to people with weight issues.
Speaking of 52oz steaks, the waitress walks by with one. I don’t think I could fit two of these on my full sized Weber at the same time. I get my salad and I swear to you it has the best blue cheese dressing I have ever had. It was literally just chopped up blue cheese with a little mayo in it. I also got a basket of crackers to go with my salad. ritzy places serve bread with dinner, diners serve crackers.
Finally my steak comes and as I imagined, it was a monster. 22oz of fried steak. Yes fried. They don’t grill steaks in diners, they fry them. That is OK by me, crispy salty outside, tender red inside. The steak was good. Sure its not the Met but I didn’t pay 75 dollars for this either. This was a good steak, heck a good meal. I asked for a side of that amazing blue cheese to smear on my steak and was told they had to charge me for it. When you charge 13 dollars for a full ribeye dinner, your profit margins are slim, no free dressings. I get that and have no problem with the extra 50 cents. I probably would a bought a jar of this stuff to take home if they sold it.
I finished and left. I smelled a little bit like smoke and old coffee and beer and thoughts of my childhood hummed along in my head. You can’t beat these places for good food. Not pompous food, food where you can sit and enjoy yourself without having to worry about spilling on the silk table linens. That is not to say there isn’t a place for that, because there is.
But there is a place for Break’s too.