Monday, March 3, 2008

As Seen On Food Network

For the first time, Bill Friday tracks down a food establishment "As Seen" on America's number one source for all things food. But maybe the folks at The Gaffey Street Diner didn't see this coming.

I love food.

That said, with all the time a writer has in between writing - and gainful employment - I watch a lot of TV. And when that watching isn't sports or lousy movies on SciFi Channel, it usually involves food. And that means Food Network. Now, besides making that one day road trip to watch baseball in all of the holiest shrines in North America - Wrigley, Fenway, maybe even that rat hole in the Bronx (or that real rat hole in Anaheim) - one of my biggest wants has been to take a long overdue roadie to all the really cool "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" Guy Fieri ever ate for free at.

The first stop on the world tour of soup du jour turned out to be a little place right in my old hometown of San Pedro, California. The Gaffey Street Diner. And after it was done, it left me asking myself one question.

What was I thinking?

A few quick points of information before we begin. One, I said in the open that San Pedro is my old home town. I lived there at the end of the last millennium. A lot of things have changed in the world since 1999 - real estate boomed, gas prices soared, I learned how to text message - and a lot of things stayed the same - Michael Cimino still can't get a job, the Dodgers still can't win the World Series, and San Pedro is still the armpit of the South Bay. Saturday's roadie did nothing to change my perception that getting out of Pedro with my life and a little positive cash flow from the sale of my little house on Mesa were the only good things about the experience. So what was I thinking, intentionally going to a joint two blocks off the last exit off the Harbor Freeway? You know what they say, "Alzheimer's makes the heart grow... umm... umm...".

But enough with the rant about my little town. If you don't like what I said, call with Petros Papadakis. This was a food review, right? Here goes...

The Gaffey Street Diner, located at 247 N. Gaffey St. serves real food. Diner food. This trip just past the smoke stacks would have been worth it just to have the size-of-my-head biscuit and country gravy, complete with a ladle full of sliced link sausage mixed in for extra flavor. But the fact that this fluffy, that's right, FLUFFY hunk of home style heaven came with a breaded pork cutlet, two eggs and a half pound of seasoned home fries for all of a whopping $8.50...

You want more? Blueberry pancakes, moist and sweet, and as big as the hubcap on a Mini Cooper. Three on a plate for $4.75. And an under appreciated specialty, Menudo. A to-go order (32 ounces!) with all the add-your-own, fresh fixins before you pack it yourself, $8.95. And this version of the Saturday morning favorite probably had more fork-tender tripe than the law allows. At least it there ought to be a law about such things.

Anyway, out the door for five people with enough food to feed ten... 52 bucks and change. On top of all that, the wait staff - and I mean staff was fast, fun (I literally saw a lady clear a table, with dirty dishes for four, in two stacks she carried out in just one trip) and apologetic. Our waitress actually apologized for taking two minutes to get back with our coffee with a packed house on a Saturday morning. Oh, and one more thing. Parking is a hellish nightmare. I had to park three blocks south, then hike it back to wait with the thirty or so folks waiting just to get into the place at 9:30 in the morning.

So, do I recommend the Gaffey Street Diner? Absolutely. Do I recommend the street named Gaffey in the "rustic" seaside community of San Pedro?

Call Petros at 1-866-987-2570. I'm sure he'll care.

Copyright © 2008 Bill Friday