Saturday, August 8, 2009

Today seemed ideally suited to the state we visited, short. We crossed the river to Rhode Island and determined that we would relax as much as possible. We even reserved a room at a Comfort Inn that promised an outside pool with the intention of vegging out. Loading the laundry, slathering on the sunscreen, and snagging our beach chairs, our afternoon was a delight. Naturally we began the day with two more terrific diners.

In East Greenwich we started with Jigger's Diner, a Worcester Lunch Car selected for its famed Johnnycakes. Pulling into town, I sighed at the long line stretching out the door and asked Jenny and Vienna to save a place while I searched for parking. I ended up with a spot on a street so sharply pitched that I feared our tiny rental car might actually tumble over. Returning to Jigger's I found that my family had already grabbed seating along the counter, Jenny thrilling at the prospect of watching the cooks masterfully turn eggs into perfect omelets while managing a complex ballet of other foods at varying temperatures. Johnnycakes, gingerbread French toast (with blueberries and sweet cream), and walnut waffles, along with homemade sausages, resulted in a meal so filling that Jenny actually yearned for a nap right afterward.

Still, we had to make a quick stop at Pawtucket's Modern Diner to grab a meal in an historical landmark that resembles a streamliner train. I asked for a small bowl of fruit and was rewarded with fresh blueberries, strawberries, grapefruit, and orange slices, a meal so good I felt guilty for ordering so little. Jenny stuck with the most bran-filled cereal she could order. Finally we made our way to the hotel, relaxing by the pool under a warm blue sky.

By evening the clouds had created a pattern that resembled spilt wine and the three of us headed north to the Rustic Drive-In. We'd planned on seeing GI Joe for some reason (I figure it was Jenny and Vienna trying to be nice) but we found the most packed outdoor theater we'd ever seen; that movie was already sold out. So we downshifted to a more family-friendly pic, The Proposal. With hardly any mosquitoes in the air Vienna asked us to crank up the radio so she could lean against the car outside. I hope she managed to find one piece of the pavement that wasn't too cracked and potholed; this drive-in's surface is epic that way. The crowd was boisterous and friendly but even the laser pointer-distractions disappeared when the show started.

Returning to our hotel we stopped in Providence, parking next to City Hall to take in a local tradition: late night diner food at the Haven Brothers truck. As any aficionado will tell you, the history of diner food began in Providence in 1872 when Walter Scott used a horse-drawn carriage to serve meals to hungry workers. And the closest way to experiencing that genesis of the American diner is to step up into the Haven Brothers mobile feast, selecting from a host of fatty, greasy options and joining a strange community of downtown regulars who range from local politicians to members of the city's homeless population. I made room for a hot dog (served in a slightly toasted piece of white bread) and all was right with the world.

All text copyright Andrew Wood.
Photos copyright Andrew and Jenny Wood.