Monday, March 19, 2007

... at a diner on the corner

Having breakfast or brunch at a diner is something I particularly missed. Diner is a specific American culinary culture – the East Coast, or Northeast, to be more specific. The choice of brunch menu at every diner is quite typical. That’s a kind of place I can find a burger, a true one, not the junk food version, good pancake, and coffee. Just coffee; no latte, au lait or frappe. I don’t know the local equivalence for diner in Indonesia, but maybe Warkop is the closest one.

Unfortunately, not many diners around the Harvard Square part of Cambridge, Mass. I had to go to Davis Square, Medford, or Brighton Avenue on the way to Waltham. There are more choices in New York City. My friend used to take me to one near NYU, in the Union Square neighborhood. And of course, the famous Tom's Restaurant on the corner of Broadway Avenue and 112 Street, Upper Manhattan, near Columbia University. This place had been the regular meeting place of Seinfeld and co. It was also featured in Suzanne Vega’s single hit, Tom’s Diner, in the late ‘80s (I am sittin’/in the morning/at a diner/on the corner).

Last long weekend, my wife and I found one ‘American Diner’ (that’s what the place claim itself) in Kemang, about five hundreds meters down the street from my high school (as well as Sjamsu’s and Ujang’s). They do offer diner-type menu. The taste and quality was OK. Not great, but not bad. However, it was not the type of setting I expect from a diner. For one, the place was too fancy, too colorful and too decorated for a diner. And the guests, I think they are over-dressed to go to a diner.

But maybe it is just me. It is Kemang, and it is ‘American’ gitu loh… Expecting informality and casualness from the place is perhaps too much, or too few. And maybe it will be the same thing if sometimes Warkop becomes a global culture, or a place for socialites.


  1. ap, I recall one night back to our college year, you took me and Pram to Kemang for dinner. I was expecting that you would treat us good meal in fancy places there. And coming from you, it was a real surprise.

    Alas, it never was.

    Instead, you took us to the Indonesian version of diner, that is, warung Indomie dan pisang bakar -- (cheap) instant noodle and roast banana. Of course, we protested, yet you just said, 'But this is in Kemang, anyway".

  2. Ape, if you happen to travel to Durham, NC, you gotta try Elmo's Diner. Pretty authentic American, kinda mix of Northern and Southern. Salmon cakes are good. Very kids friendly. My daughter's favorite meal is noodles n' cheese (which is not in the menu anymore) :(

  3. Rizal -- ah, the good 'ol days... Just a reminder: at that time I DID tell you guys that I wanted to have a pisang bakar IN Kemang.

    But can you imagine if we took our mate Pramono -- then an anti-establishment, anti-capitalist and anti-rich -- to Jimbani? (which was just across the street from our Indomie and pisang bakar vendor?

    Bleu -- ah, didn't manage to go to the South at that time. perhaps one day?

  4. "However, it was not the type of setting I expect from a diner. For one, the place was too fancy, too colorful and too decorated for a diner. And the guests, I think they are over-dressed to go to a diner."

    If you go to that pseudo-diner, The Coffee Shop, at the union square (did your friend take you there?) where the waitress are super hot 180cm aspiring models in mini skirt. Then you may have a different idea for what a diner is.


  5. ap, did you? But don't you think it would be very irrational for us to say yes, if that was the case --you did tell us about pisang bakar. Why on earth we traveled as far as Kemang, while Margonda Depok literally have millions of pisang bakar vendors? :-))

  6. Ah, Rizal and Ape, cut the crap out :-) You WERE a bunch of socialists at that time! Talk about fancy dinner?

  7. Ever tried Wild Willy Burgers in Watertown? It's one of the best

  8. Rizal -- the answer: because we had our social capital between us... that you'd travel from Depok to Kemang in that particular evening :-)

    Aco -- Rizal WAS a socialist. I was a self-proclaimed neo-conservative market fundamentalist.

  9. bptiok... you should try going to CITOS... they got a burger (yes, real burger) joint that served very nice ceasar salad. the setting is diner-like and it's a very casual ambiance. as i recall i was wearing short pants and tshirt with no make up while eating there... and no objection from the people there.

    on the overly dressed people, well... what can i say.. people do have the tendency to overdress nowadays, just go to plasa indonesia on the weekend nights and you'll understand my saying. you'll find girls is sequined halter tops with very mini skirt and full make up eating at sushi tei. is there any social justification on this?

  10. hihii....*grinning ear to ear*

    rizal : somebody had to bring up that (in)famous Kemang dinner of AP's,'m glad it was u

    aco : good 'touche' for the boys there ;-)

    AP : Diners aren't only a typical EastCoast/NorhteastCoastian kind of thing, rite? many good ones in small towns in the South least West Virginia...which as far 'south' as I ever travelled...

    Roby : I've been to that diner of you mentioned...a sunday brunch there is certainly a feast for the eyes for me (lots very very cute NY boys who're probably looking to kill a hangover...)

    speaking on TV screens, I would luv to visit Luke's Diner in Stars Hollow , Luke from the Gilmore girls...anyone have a clue where that could be??

    *i think i've been talking too much tonite...*

  11. mbok yao, pe. dengan budget yang elu pake, akan lebih make sense kalo makan di Pecel Lele PL aje. diner diner apaan sih, sok londo luh! :p

  12. hey.. just drop by because google took me here when i searched the word 'cafe'. nice picture by the way. hee hee..

    i was just wondering if the american diner is still there.. i guess it wasn't quite successful. i once passed the diner and i think it wasn't there anymore, is it still?