When it comes to American culture, right up there with baseball and apple pie is the diner: the greasy spoon with its limited menu, small space and, often, big following. This is what makes my introduction to Shopper's Grill so ironic. I first heard about it in Sicily.
In one of those uncanny, small world connections, I got the tip about the Bon Shopping Center diner, which is not at all greasy, from fellow Coloradans.
Shopper's Grill is only open five days a week for breakfast and lunch. The one-page menu for each reveals a lot - almost as much as the classic décor, oldies music in the background and the nonstop flow of people walking through the door for a no-frills, well-prepared meal. I've been told it's not unusual for lines to form outside.
I went for lunch, when the choices are hamburgers, an array of sandwiches, a few salads and a daily special. That's it.
There are seven burger options, but they're variations on a theme. These include plain burgers, with cheese, with bacon, with bacon and cheese, with double patties with some or all of the above. I kept it simple by ordering a bacon burger with french fries ($8.50). The bacon was no mere afterthought. It was piled high, justifying its top billing. This was not simply a burger with a ceremonial slice or two. No, this was a stack of bacon nearly concealing the juicy beef patty with iceberg lettuce, slices of tomatoes, onions and pickles.
The bun held up well considering the bulky filling it contained. With the heaping amount of fries, I surprised myself by practically cleaning the plate.
Available sandwiches are all diner standards including grilled cheese, BLT, tuna salad, patty melt, egg salad, chicken salad and club to name a few. We ordered the half club ($7.95) mistakenly thinking it would be a light portion, so we added a cup of chicken noodle soup ($2.95).
The homemade soups change daily. I was tricked by the thick, egg noodles that have the texture and look of the hand-rolled variety. One of the two servers told me she thought they were better than homemade and I almost agree. The soup was full of chicken, celery, carrots and, of course, those impressive, albeit store-bought, noodles.
The club sandwich is made on a choice of sourdough, wheat or white bread lathered with mayonnaise. Precise amounts of meats (turkey, ham and diced bacon) are interspersed with slices of American and Swiss cheeses. Quartered and held in place with toothpicks, each section looks like the culinary strata of a delicatessen. It comes with chips and we couldn't help but wonder how much larger the whole club ($10.75) is in comparison.
The lunch special ($7.95) changes daily, but Fridays portend burritos. They're filled with ground beef, smothered in green chili and served with tortilla chips and a small salad. Tuesdays specials feature German food, for example, Wienerschnitzel with German potato salad. On other days, meat loaf or roast pork are among the possibilities.
Each table is adorned with a small American flag. The walls reflect a variety of interests from a shelf with antique radios to a shadow box with Hot Wheels cars, from an early Little Rascals movie poster to patriotic memorabilia. Food arrives quickly and the staff is friendly. The only things missing from this quintessential diner are a counter and a pie case. Of course, the servings are large enough that the latter isn't necessary.