What'll ya have Pal?

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There are restaurants, joints, canteens, eateries, chuck-wagons, bistros, snack-bars, cafes, deli’s and there are diners.
Ideally, a diner should be built in an old dining car from the railroad. There should be a considerable amount of stainless steel. There should be flavored cokes, french fries, and hand-dipped milk shakes. Burgers should be simple, served with chips and a pickle, or fries and slaw. Ketchup and mustard should be on the table at all times. They should have meatloaf. There should be a lunch counter. There should be pie.
In Grand Rapids, there is a place where all these things come together in one place – Pal’s Diner.

If you go there, have a flavored coke – Cherry, Strawberry, Vanilla – I can’t recommend the Chocolate. If you’re in the mood for a dessert – get a shake. Any of the sundae flavors work.

Their signature item is cute rather than tasty. It’s the “car full of fries”. A paper-board car lined with waxed paper, full of fries. The fries are good and just the right size for dipping.

I haven’t been there as often as I used to, when I knew the wait-staff by name. I stopped in for lunch the other day with Andy and Paul, and I couldn’t help but tell this story.

Once when I used to go to pals a lot, my favorite waitress came to me at the end of a long line of my friends at the lunch counter. She had taken all of their orders already, and when she came to me she said, “the usual?”
I didn’t know what “the usual” was going to be, but I knew one thing. If a waitress asks you if you’ll have “the usual,” you say “yes!” I don’t care if she brings you a manhole cover loaded with sausage gravy and pinapple wedges, you say “yes!”
To this day, I still don’t remember what she brought me, but it left an indellible impression.

… maybe it’s just me?

P.S. – click the picture above for a bonus story.

Brian Atkinson

Brian is an international and inspirational speaker, consultant, and voice artist. Brian has served as the Director of Digital Communications at American Bible Society, and the Director of Digital Media at The Bible Gateway (Gospel Communications International). He has worked as a communications director, technology manager, church-planter, radio announcer, welder, and ice cream man. He has a lot of t-shirts.

Posted in Brian-Food
3 comments on “What'll ya have Pal?
  1. Heather says:

    Ok, so I’ve been thinking about going to Pal’s since I read this blog but haven’t had the opportunity. I had Good Friday off and was in the area. Great! I’ll go to Pal’s for lunch. Nope. They were closed for Spring Break. April 3rd through April 12th. Will resume business Friday April 13th. That’s a long Spring Break and I didn’t know it pertained to businesses.

    Long story…I was bummed to say the least. Had to get a shake at Culver’s instead. Not the same ambiance though.

  2.   says:

    Hello, we found your blog through your picture on flickr. While we like the angle used in the photo, we do need to comment on your blog entry.

    “Ideally, a diner should be built in an old dining car from the railroad. There should be a considerable amount of stainless steel.”

    A diner was factory manufactured for the purpose of being a restaurant. Depending upon the size of the diner, it might be manufactured in sections or modules, then transported to site for final assembly. The term “rail car” or “train car” at times is used to describe a diner’s characteristics reminiscent of rail dining cars.
    -Diner News and History staff

  3. wow… seriously?
    the “-Diner News and History staff” corrected me on my opinion of what a diner should/should not be?

    Awesome.