Thursday, November 5, 2009

OLE's WAFFLE SHOP (Alameda) - Snack to the Future

I am, and always will be, a product of the fifties. That changing decade that melted into the turbulent sixties and my childhood. When I was a kid, meals out consisted of things like juicy burgers at the Plaza Drive-In. They served a side of pan-fried canadian bacon there that was the only thing my Mom could get my baby sister to eat when we were kids.
Those meals were my first comfort food, the burgers and fries and sandwiches of youth, experienced when I was a child and all of them served among the sights and sounds of the various diners around town --- the only kind of restaurant a working single mother could take her kids for a special treat. Some foods can actually transport you back. Back to a simpler time when your biggest worry was would the ketchup come out of the bottle fast enough to land on your fries when they were still hot from the fryer.

So when I come upon a place like Ole's, I am transported back to the diners of a time long gone. To Biff's with my grandmother on a Sunday after church, to Merritt Bakery (which, delightfully, still stands) for a hot turkey club or to the Plaza Drive-In with my mother for an early dinner after piano lessons. It is a trip I willingly take, that journey back in time to the meals of my childhood.

Last week my husband and I needed to grab a quick lunch, and we were feeling like simple comfort food. We had business in Alameda, and so we picked Ole's Waffle Shop, a lovely little throw-back to another time and place, smack on Park Avenue. The few of these establishments that still exist are perfect little time machines. When we were seated, I half-expected Betty Draper and her kids to come in for an after-school sundae. While the Drapers didn't materialize, we did enjoy a solid meal.

I had my favorite, a Club Sandwich. Here the menu reads "Turkey Club" but I'm pretty sure that without turkey it's just a BLT, so the Turkey on the menu is a redundancy in the title. It was piled high with thick slices of fresh-roasted turkey and juicy bacon. These days diner food is a bit of an indulgence, so I nixed the fries and went with fruit. To my delight, it was fresh. Diners often serve partially canned fruits, but Ole's was fresh, seasonal and ripe. Delish~

My BH loves an omelette. He ordered his favorite, a ham and cheese omelette with a side of hash browns. Basic. Tasty. I took a bite and it was good. It came with this giant buttermilk biscuit that was also really good. Home-baked. yum.

Yes, this sort of meal is typical of what one can expect to get at a Denny's or other chain, but there is something special about the food in places like this one. Places that aren't a chain, that have been there for a very long time serving the same food for decades. It's just a little more authentic somehow. Maybe it's the love. Maybe it's the counters. They have a story.

The coffee here is good. Mine was fresh and not pot-burnt like it often can be. Ole's itself is small, but the kind of small that has charm. The servers are likewise charming. They all seem like "lifers" who took waitressing 101 from Flo. Everyone knows everyone else, the locals all have their special place to sit and a special hello from one or more of the staff.

All in all, like Alameda, this place is insular and welcoming at the same time. A safe little cubby of the comforting and familiar that any patron can pull out and nibble on when missing home or hearth. Check it out the next time you're in the mood for a little slice of the past. Or maybe pie.

Bon Appetit!

Ole's Waffle Shop
1507 Park Street
Alameda, CA 94501
Table size: adequate
Noise level: typical
Cost: inexpensive
Dining time: speedy!

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