Saint's Patty

Andy's Diner has been around since all restaurants looked like Andy's Diner.

I'm sitting at the bar in a vintage train car. We're not moving; nor are seven similarly appointed cars connected to the bar car. Framed black-and-white photographs dot the walls. Over too many martinis to count, a three-top of septuagenarians banters at a thunderous volume with a wrinkly-faced waitress in traditional garb. A fat guy sitting alone and reviewing scores of documents chokes on a piece of medium-rare meat, apologizing to those assembled for the interruption. The lights are dim, and there's a patty melt on the menu. "How many martinis have these three had?" asks the waitress, obviously well-tenured. "Too many to count," replies the dexterous, wiseacre bartender, before sarcastically ordering the waitress to throw the lovable bums out. "I've never been kicked out," replies one of the old-timers, a regular if there ever was one. "Never been kicked in either," he adds, eliciting laughter all around. This isn't a dream. This isn't the '40s. This isn't The Twilight Zone. This isn't Red Rocks. This isn't the Edge. This is lunch hour at Andy's Diner. Andy's Diner has been around since all restaurants looked like Andy's Diner. More or less, anyway. The restaurant is situated in several rail cars marooned on an industrial strip of Fourth Avenue South where people work but don't live. Now, very few restaurants look like Andy's Diner, inside or out. The servers have been there forever, the customers have been coming forever, and the tourists are so awestruck at the time machine quotient that one actually went out of his way to praise the sublime quality of a pint of Bud Light. At Andy's, time stands still, save for a FOX News telecast in the bar which bears the surreal image of Huey Lewis fishing a sand wedge out of his bag at a celebrity pro-am golf tourney. With this snippet, time breaks out of its deep freeze, hurtling for a brief moment into the '80s, when everyone wanted a new drug (or, as my domestic partner's ex-Ford exec dad innocently misinterpreted Huey's hit song, "a new truck"). On my first visit, I sat at the lunch counter and ordered a grilled ham and cheese to help soak up the prior night's debauchery. It took awhile, but not so long that I felt compelled to say anything to my waitress. Didn't have to: Realizing this lapse in efficiency, she delivered me a free bowl of ice cream in exchange for my patience. I returned a week later and sat in the aforementioned bar car, where I ordered a Bloody Mary and a patty melt amidst Huey's fairway exploits and the three screaming martini tipplers. It was there that I was reminded of how deliciously simple a well-executed patty melt can be—a forgotten sandwich that will never slip my mind again.

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