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Friday, February 8, 2008

Soup? Yes Soup!


My favorite diner here in Port Orchard is The Bethel Cafe. It's a Norman Rockwell sort of joint without all the sentimentality. My favorite waitress is a woman on my side of fifty with the build and personality of a woman's prison guard. The cafe is an adjunct to the bar next door, and I suspect the beanery is financed by the beer sold at the tavern. There was a time when, under Washington Law, the income of a saloon had to be a certain percentage food sales. It could well have changed, but most bars seem to have cooking facilities. I digress. I've been going in there for a year and a half, and the burley, flinty eyed waitress has never asked my name. Within two weeks, the ladies at the joint where I occasionally have breakfast in Gig Harbor were calling me "Bert" and knew of my taste for poached eggs and bacon, but the young gals are just too damn perky. 
Even though I consider myself a good tipper ($2 or 20%, whichever is greater) my waitress treats me as if I had asked for a second bowl of gruel at the orphanage where she was recently second matron. Please don't hit me....whimper....whimper. Ha! It's like being in a little amateur production of a play based on the painting "Night Hawks". She always brings me a menu and asks what I want to drink, even though I've turned my coffee mug over and arranged the sweeteners and cream. Did I mention that every place setting has paper napkin, knife fork and spoon, and one of those heavy pottery coffee mugs? These people mean business. About half the time I order the patty melt with soup instead of fries because the rye bread is about all my type 2 diabetes can tolerate. 
Their soup is  a generally great. generally thick tomato and bean based with bits of yesterday's dinner special simmered in for the meat. This is the way god meant for soup to be if there were such a thing. God, not soup. The short order cook does as well as the best of this sort of cooking that I have seen. This is American food defined. Most everything from scratch. There is a meat market across Bethel that makes its own sausages, and these are found in their breakfasts. I recommend the "Southwestern" for those who like a bit of kick. The cook doesn't chat with the customers, but from the look of him I suspect he is retired Navy, probably a cook there too. There is usually a bus boy that hustles between the tavern and cafe doing bus boy stuff. The bartender, and I suspect the owner, is another retired Navy types, except he wears a leather vest instead of the cook's formerly white apron.
Some may say I go there for the abuse, but you would be wrong. I go for the decent and cheap food and theater. There are much better places nearby, but none for the solo diner wanting to remain that way. The afternoon waitress and weekend gal  are much nicer. I think the older chain smoker is a retired biker chick. The ingenue is learning the waitressing trade from her two elders, but has far too much of the milk of human kindness flowing in her veins.
The clientele is all American. Like me. Fat, out of shape and hungry. Mostly retirees and families wanting no surprises. Like the oldies station that plays in the background it is comfortable and uncomplicated. Oh, and the soup is good.

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