Day 92, Living life on my terms.
Have you ever been hungry for something very specific, but there is absolutely no way to get it? I have been salivating for a really good, fresh cheeseburger with real potato french fries. Now, not just any burger and fries mind you, but a juicy cheeseburger with real cut french fries from the basement at the Old Hickory.
Now realizing that sounds absolutely crazy and I am probably glorifying the food from there more than it deserves, but I just remember how good they tasted over 30 years ago.
The fries were never cut even and the skins were intact as they went into the grease to cook. When they brought your order to you a few fries would slide onto the table as the quantity was too much for the plate. Not to let them go to waste, the escapees were devoured first!
I don’t remember anything super special about the burgers, other than they were always juicy and thick; the way a burger should be! What is sold as burgers today at Mcdonalds, Sheetz, and even the Tastee Freeze start out so frozen and lifeless that they will never compare.
In fact, the only place I can remember that even came close in quality of burger was Ted and AJ’s place between town and the hospital.
Rick Long, or Ricko as he is most often referred, used all fresh ingredients to make his food as well. It was amazing to watch him put out so much food on a little flat top grill and prep area that was smaller than most kitchens.
One day my mother, my Aunt Charlene and I stopped at Ted and AJ’s for lunch. They were always talking about his spaghetti, which was one of his signature specials guaranteed to fill up the hungriest of customers. As for me, I am always on the hunt for a good burger.
I asked what the double decker burger was like and Ricko pointed to the clock on the wall. Located beside the clock was a rendering of a double cheeseburger stacked on a split bun with all of the veggies and it measured around 6 inches tall. Ricko said; “It looks like that when it is done.” I thought ok, it’s your regular double cheeseburger that flattens out to about 2-3 inches by the time it is done. I was wrong.
Ricko brought me over a sandwich that there was absolutely no way to fit it into my mouth all at once. It really did look just like the picture. Not only that, I watched him pull out an actual head of lettuce and a real tomato from his little refrigerator to cut into my toppings. Nothing was pre-sliced or prepared ahead of time. In fact, I could safely say it may have even been better than any burger I ever got from a basement restaurant on Main Street. Of course, having been so long since the Old Hickory closed it would not truly be a fair comparison.
Then as I peered over at the spaghetti and meatballs orders my mom and Aunt Charlene were trying to eat, it became evident that to go boxes were going to be needed. Ricko made fresh meatballs every morning and his sauce was absolutely fantastic. I could not believe the quality of food that was produced out of his little shack.
While I am thinking about homemade foods that are no longer available in Coudersport, I should also take some time to mention little ole’ Micki Goodwyn and Micki’s Diner on East 2nd Street.
To most people, her place was often referred to as the “greasy spoon.” That was not really a fair assessment as her place was just like walking into your own mother’s kitchen. Complete with all of the old men sipping coffee at the table in front every morning.
Many times, while you dined there, Micki herself would appear out of the kitchen and join you at your table. She worked very hard every day making all sorts of pastries and baked goods that were enjoyed by everyone. You had to get there early as she often sold out and she had to close early enough to go home and get ready to go out and play bingo that night. She also had to make time to stop at Boyd’s Corner Store and get her daily lottery numbers.
One time, since Micki knew I was a baker at Erways, she told me she had something special for me. I was just about finished with my biscuits and sausage gravy when she brought me out a steaming warm, freshly glazed, yeast raised donut. It was the size of the plate and smelled amazing. I broke off a piece and it absolutely melted in my mouth. I had never made a donut that tasted that good, and I probably never will. It would have made the staunchest Krispy Kreme fan second guess their allegiance.
That was Micki’s life, Bingo, lotto, and her diner. For that matter, Ted and AJ’s was pretty much all that Ricko did at that time as well. He was either at home, or he was at the restaurant, but that is what it takes to run businesses like these and it certainly isn’t for everyone.
That does it, now I am really hungry for food that there is no way I can get. Probably some of you are as well. Sure we can make these items at home, but they are never really quite the same. Maybe if we are lucky, the new owners of the Old Hickory will reopen the old restaurant/bar someday. I only hope they find out how the food was made way back when and try to follow the same recipes and techniques.
Today I am dedicating my progress to the great food places that are no longer around (for now, hopefully); the Old Hickory, Ted and AJ’s, and Micki’s Diner. Just a few more examples of things we enjoyed while growing up that kids today just don’t understand.