Circuit Court Sacramento
816 - 12 Street
just got back from Twin Falls, Idaho. For those of you who haven't
studied your geography, Twin (as the locals say) is a smallish town
in the South Central part of the state. The setting is dramatic: treeless
high desert, dry and cold, and the sky is spectacular. Plus it's perched
right on the edge of the Snake River's plunging canyon, which -- I
don't know what that crazy Evil Knievel was thinking -- is enormous.
It's a town of kind people, unlocked doors, wholesome-looking teenagers,
But all is not well
in Twin Falls. I sensed it when I drove into town. There was an unsettling
sameness to the restaurants lining the
No odd shaped buildings, no slightly unprofessional looking signage.
Of course, this is expected for fast food, but it seemed to apply to
the not-so-fast kind as well. The whole place looked like it had been
focus-grouped, and by the same bunch of people. Chain upon chain. But
heck, I figured there must be some back road with great BBQ or Mom
is cooking Mexican. Homemade apple pie! But no. My friend Scout, the
I was in Twin to begin with, sadly informed me that the town has almost
no independently owned, mom and pop style places to eat anymore. Twin
Falls has succumbed to the siren call of complete quality control,
of knowing exactly how your food will taste every place you go. Scout
that chain-ification is the trend in small towns all over the USA,
and unfortunately she is a college professor who tends to have her
Now whether this
is morally wrong is debatable. However, it certainly makes for a blander
eating experience overall. I confess I was shocked
by the pervasiveness of the condition. Thank goodness it has not
happened in my neck of the woods. Perhaps the dumpier -- err, more colorful
neighborhoods I tend to live in are immune from this kind of improvement.
they stay that way.
Slightly out of whack
when I returned home to Sac, I fled to Jim-Denny's: the antidote to
all things corporate.
About the size of
a boxcar, Jim-Denny's has been in its present location since the end
of WW2, but it was founded even
earlier, in 1936. It
has accumulated many
fans over the years. The cash register is original, and
so, importantly, is the grill. It has been seasoning this entire
to Jim-Denny's literature, this is "the secret flavor ingredient
no other restaurant can duplicate." Most things served here
pass over the grill at some point -- the menu includes hot dogs,
various sizes including "the old-fashioned 5 cent burger," grilled
cheese, patty melts, cheese steaks, and also breakfast between
7 and 11AM, which is the time to go if you want to occupy one of
seats. If you go there for lunch, you will be standing for at least
half your visit. That may not sound so great, but actually, it's
part of the
fun. A crowded party is always more fun than a deserted one, isn't
it? And that's what it's like in Jim-Dennys. It's like a party,
or a really
good bar, except instead of ordering vodka gimlets, you order burgers.
Strangers talk to one another. Construction workers muscle through
to pick up their phone orders. There is an air of excited bonhomie.
about the time you decide to get it "to go" some people
who are actually seated at the counter get up and there you are,
face with the grill, the milkshake machine, and 60 years worth
of cartoons and humorous hand lettered signs: "Cones: single
$1, married $2" and "Our
credit manager is Helen Waite. If you want credit, go to Helen
reality, I think the credit manager is Bonnie, also serving as
grill-mistress extraordinaire. She is mesmerizing to watch, a magician.
turning around from the grill, she keeps all the orders straight
plus the locations
of those who placed them, and considering the lunchtime throng
at Jim-Denny's, this is no small feat. "Pass this to Javier
in the corner." I
can't even see Javier through the crowd, but she knows, she knows.
the burger: Yes, it's great. If you order one of the numbered
lunches, it comes with a fountain drink and fries, too, which is
I've also had grilled ham and cheese, and a two egg breakfast
hit the spot.
I visited Jim-Denny's
most recently in an official capacity, as a member of the "Burger Quest" investigative team. BQ is a group of
inquiring minds, united by their status as City of Sac employees, and
their desire to find "the perfect manifestation of the all-American
meal." They are led by the ebullient Mr. Chipman, who is a visionary.
His vision is this: a comprehensive study of burgers available in the
greater Sacramento area. The destinations number more than 20, nearly
all of which are mom and pop style places. Yes, that's a lot of ground
to cover, but BQ is focused and relentless. When a large enough dataset
has been gathered, the data will be processed, analyzed, and published,
which should be a snap for this group of IT professionals. Mr. Chipman
and myself, being like-minded in many ways, have reached a tentative
agreement to make the results of this analysis available on the Füd
Court. Important research like this may make it possible for towns all
over American to mitigate the Twin Falls effect. In the meantime, do
your part! Find some little hole-in-the wall in your neighborhood and
give it a chance. It could be the next Jim-Denny's.
Magistrate Louise at firstname.lastname@example.org