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Gas, Füd, Lodging
Judge Vardigan

Summer 2002
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Washington

Frank's Diner
1516 W. Second Ave.
Spokane, WA

Map this restaurant

Frank's"Just one? Right this way." Dining alone on the road has its advantages, as the wait for a four-person booth at Spokane's famous Frank's Diner was about a half-hour. I slid onto a stool at the counter, claiming prime real estate in front of the grill and griddle, where I could witness the waitress stab a knife through the top of a burger before delivering it, and the cook (name of Junior) dribble gravy over a strip of hashbrowns. I'd never seen that. But they are potatoes, after all, and not far from mashed. I went for the gravied browns with my bacon and cheese omelette, which ran $7.69 -- a bit steep.

One sign of a great counter is coat hooks. Either under the counter at each stool, or behind each stool on the wall. Frank's got one or the other, according to my notes here, but I don't remember which. The waitresses (I saw no waiters) and the cooks perform an effortless slide dance past each other when maneuvering behind the counter. You could put music to it. After enough coffee, you can find this music in the rat-a-tat spatula, the spit and pop of bacon, and the sizzle of a steak on the gridiron grill. If you're on I-90 going through Washington, be sure to stop in at Frank's and eat to the beat.

Hash Browns

NOTES FROM THE CAR

Coffee is still very bad at most gas stations, but I found Shell (sort of pictured below, along with all the mashed bugs on my windshield) a small cup above the rest. In general, stations with a glass pot of coffee had the worst coffee. Maybe because it's sitting there heating up rather than staying hot in a big thermos, and therefore it burns. I think gas stations see too much action on road trips. You go there for gas, coffee, food, and the bathroom. Pragmatic people consolidate these visits, but you can't always.

So, I really think someone (preferably Dunkin') should start a chain of basic coffee shacks (don't bother with espresso drinks), placed just off interstate off-ramps. A name you can recognize, coffee you can trust, and you could drive right through it if you wanted. Of course, there'd be a downside: You'd never get to make any of those odd and memorable finds while wandering the gas station aisles. But, hey, you can do that when you actually stop for gas. Or for the bathroom. Or for beef jerky, Skittles, and that great beer cozy you'd never find anywhere but, say, Rock Creek, Montana.

Smashed Bugs

 

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