There must be only a handful of diners left in America where you can smoke cigarettes right next to the open kitchen and read a newspaper. 2016 has made visiting timeless diners a very real need: It’s a year that makes hyperbole seem tame. How do you let off steam these days? You could wrap a room in plastic, fill it with disposable furniture and destroy it all with a sledgehammer. You could go Zodiac-level insane and send ciphers to a local alt-weekly newspaper that features food coverage.
You could also sit down at a diner, smoke like an Industrial Revolution train and eat cheeseburgers.
J’s Breakfast and Burgers is open 24 hours, seven days a week, and it's been open for decades. There’s a section for real smoking, not just vaping. The ghost of Don Draper approves. You can vent your smoke into the open kitchen and watch it mingle with the cook’s griddle steam. Grab a newspaper, order a coffee in a real goddamn mug and take in the diner. J’s is a “no-frills space.” No-frills is food writer language for, “This place doesn't need food writers.” The ceiling has an unearthly tan tinge. Threads of shredded cheese and a few tomato slices have escaped to the kitchen floor. There are some globs of probably-delicious orange goo that you’re probably supposed to ignore. Shhh, it’s fine. Just get a burger. Exhale, crisply snap open your real paper newspaper and watch your burger slide onto the grill from the smoking section.
My burger arrives open-face with grill marks so clear they look painted on. It’s grilled beef, with half-melted shredded cheddar, and the get-it-everywhere sesame seed bun, pickles and red onion slices. It’s hot and juicy, a true old-fashioned meat sandwich.
I ordered medium rare, which it wasn’t, but hey, it doesn’t matter at J’s. Shut up and eat your juicy beef burger, and be happy.
My check came in under $7, which ain’t all bad with a handful of tater tots and a sputtering squirt of ketchup. I pepper my ketchup and devour the rest of the cheeseburger. This has been a hell of year, and it’s only July. Don’t you need a real 24/7 diner where you can smoke 100 cigarettes and down a good diner burger?
Trust me, you do.
J's Breakfast & Burgers, 14925 Midway Road, Addison
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