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Caitlin on Corned Beef and Home Cooking

9 July, 2011

Bob and Edith’s Diner
2310 Columbia Pike
Arlington, VA

Today I am at Bob & Edith’s Diner in Arlington. This place is popular; it’s one in the afternoon and I barely found a place to sit. I’m having the recommend specialty: two eggs and corned beef.

I’m at the blue formica counter on a short swivel stool with matching cushion and I can watch the cooks prepare the food in the open air kitchen. The kitchen area is a flurry of motion and non-stop griddle action. The four men in the walkway between counter and griddle navigate the confined work area with ease, demonstrating familiarity with their stations, their habits, and each other. The conversations at the tables behind me are boisterous and good-natured. This is the mark of quality food: that people will wait patiently and in good humor first for a seat and then for their meal.

Yes, it takes time to get your meal, but given the quality—or lack of—fast food sets as it’s acceptable standard would you honestly want it any other way? Okay, ignore that question. McDonald’s “one billion served” sign answers it for us. Be aware, this is not a in-and-out, quick-and-greasey dive. If you are going to eat here, bring company or a distraction. (I busied myself starting this entry.) I reiterate, the food is worth the wait. They prepare it in front of you (if you’re at the counter) so you can see them using fresh, quality, ingredients to produce a homestyle meal. Their hash was on level with any homemade corned beef hash that I have ever had, or made. (the inclusion of a little sweet chili sauce is the only thing capable of improving upon its flavor.) They served the hash up with two eggs cooked to order, home fries, and buttered toast. All this plus coffee for under ten dollars.

The only thing some might complain about is the portion size. I will repeat, this is not McDonald’s or Denny’s. Their goal is not to addict you to grease and lead you down the miserable path to coronary failure. The portions are sized to what a person should be eating. And it is filling. I had to abandon most of my toast so I could focus on finishing the main course. But that is what quality food prepared in a traditional way does; aside from tasting better it fills you up so you eat less and feel satisfied longer.

Ultimately, what sells Bob & Edith’s is not the fantastic food but the environment. It feels like a small town café. The servers are polite and amiable, the customers are courteous of each other, and even the cooks offer the occasional smile or nod. It is an unwritten rule that you are civilized. Even boisterous conversation has a limited decibel range, as was demonstrated when a cook stepped out from behind his station and asked a woman to lower her voice—asked with genuine politeness, I will point out.

Overall Rating: five out of five scrambled eggs.

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