Bob & Edith’s

Today’s Zippy is about newspapers, their decline, and Griffy’s prediction that they’re about to come back into fashion, as a retro thing. The title — “Valiant Prints” — is a play on the name of the comic strip Prince Valiant (with the words inverted, plus the prince/prints pun). But then there’s another diner, in Bill Griffith’s endless series of them:

I’ve spent a certain amount of time tracking down the originals of the diners in Griffiths’ strips, but this one was ridiculously easy (and I might actually have eaten at the place): Bob & Edith’s, at 2310 Columbia Pike, Arlington VA:

From their website:

It all began with Robert L. Bolton, (Bob) and wife Edith Bolton purchased “Gray’s Donut Dinette” in 1969. The name was changed to “Bob and Edith’s Diner” [note that the possessive marking treats Bob and Edith as a unit, syntactically as well as semantically] and with the help of their four children (Mike, Pinky, Nancy, Greg) a new family business was launched that has continued to prosper to this day.

The diner’s appearance stayed unchanged for many years. In 1982, with the business steadily growing, Bob expanded from a 10 stool counter to a 5 stool and 7 booths. Bob expanded again in 1987 to what you see today.

Quite an extensive menu, with a set of four steak-and-eggs specials (8 oz. Delmonico steak, $12.99; 8 oz. New York steak, $12.99; 8 oz. filet steak, $14.99; 16 oz. T-bone steak, $17.99 — all with two “country fresh eggs”, home fries or grits, and toast and jelly). This is (unvanished) America, and Southern enough to offer grits as a matter of course.

I wonder how foreign visitors cope with the choices, including all the ones that aren’t explicit on the menu — how rare the steak, how the eggs are to be cooked, what kind of toast, and what jelly (though there they’ll almost surely be offered an assortment of packets, some perhaps with jam instead of jelly, from which they can make their choice in private). Not to mention at least one item on which there is no choice: what counts as home fries in this restaurant; that’s the cook’s choice, and the things that appear as home fries in different restaurants vary enormously (from wonderfully crispy grated potatoes through to big slabs of fried potato). Oh yes, and coffee probably comes with, so if you want tea (or something else) instead you’ll have to negotiate on that. All of this is an enormous collection of cultural conventions, quite opaque to the outsider (even one who’s somehow learned what the restaurant thinks of as Delmonico, New York, filet, and T-bone steaks).



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