mamachef is not talking about “the classic Down East diner, all chrome and red leatherette seats,” or even rebuilt diners, she says. “I’m talking about the Sad Cafe, the place you go when you wake up the day after a breakup, or alone with the worst hangover of your life and not enough memory of just exactly what transpired last night. I’m talking about the place where NOBODY knows your name, or cares. I’m talking sweats, and a hat to cover Bad Hair day.”

“My personal Sad Cafe has one counter, pitted and stained Formica. There are cigarette burns and coffee-mug rings. It slopes towards the middle where it’s riveted, and is actually no color at all anymore. It seats, I think, 16 people. There are, along one wall, four small booths which will seat four if you’re all real good friends. I prefer one to myself so I can put my legs up rudely on the bench on the other side while I read the paper and sip bad coffee which is perfect for the time and place. Somehow, fresh bean coffee just doesn’t work here. And the breakfast is cheap, good and consistent. What I love about my own sad cafe is that the Asian proprietors have some off-the-map specials that you won’t find in your usual joint: kimchi fried rice, turkey congee. My favorite breakfast there is coffee, a large orange juice, and a hamburger patty, topped w/ a medium fried egg, with a side of kimchi fried rice. And then I have to have one of their pancakes with whipped butter and ‘maple’ syrup. I get out for a fiver and change, tip included …

“Always, they have the congee on—and a warm welcoming smile and a thanks for coming in. Lovely, and really the only words exchanged. It’s a private little world, that Sad Cafe. And they have always been there, and so will it always be. The owners may change, but will look and sound vaguely familiar. And the dishwasher will always be a slightly hunchbacked man who is perhaps 1,000 years old. Or 50. And the ghosts will continue to come, and be fed and welcomed.”

“I love this!” says TheHuntress. “I don’t have my own sad cafe but now I suddenly want one.”

Discuss: The Sad Cafe – thoughts on THAT diner.

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