I love being a regular at a neighborhood diner. I love walking in the door to the smiling faces and salutations before taking a seat at my favorite booth, only to discover that a mug of joe is already on its way. In fact, I’m sitting at my favorite booth in my neighborhood diner while writing this. Except it’s a twenty minute bus ride from my neighborhood. But that’s alright considering I live in London where American diners are few and far between.
Sure this place (very originally called The Diner) is a little more hipster than side of the highway with its alcoholic milkshakes and kitchy Americana collectables. But they’ve got a Chuck Berry “Hail! Hail! Rock & Roll” poster on the wall, which makes this St. Louisan’ feel right at home. They also have bottomless mugs of filtered coffee—a miracle in the United Kingdom where both “unlimited” and “filtered” tend to be unknown coffee concepts.
The Diner also makes a mean burger, serves breakfast all day (including huevos rancheros), and has blue plate specials. It’s a little haven of Americana without being as touristy or as pricey as the Hard Rock Cafe.
I come to this diner to write. I come here to read and study. But mostly I come here to just let go and be as American as I need to be. By nature, I’m not very outwardly American. Sure I have a good ol’ Midwestern accent, but my vowels have mellowed a bit and my inflection has changed since I’ve been living in this country. I’m also as pale as the Brit sitting next to me and spend most days in business casual garb. But while I might not be labeled an American off the bat, I am fiercely American on the inside. And while my travels and studies have taught me there is more to the world than unilateralism, I am still a patriot. I still love the place I call home more than any other country. I didn’t become an ex-pat to get away from America. I became an ex-pat in order to deepen my understanding of my home country by looking at it in another way. But I still need a little bit of American goodness now and again to carry on—which is why this diner in the heart of London has touched my heart.
My neighborhood diner might be a bit more hipster and kitsch than yours, but it serves its purpose.