Homewood, Alabama. When you walk into Salem’s Diner, it’s the people you notice first.
It’s not the ‘50s music on the radio. It’s not the framed black-and-white photographs of World-War-II-era college football heroes, frozen in time, mid-tackle, plastered on the walls.
It’s not the tiny faux-wood booths, or the stacks of complimentary newspapers for customers who prefer print instead of iPhones.
It’s not the beautiful smell of pork and sausage. The scent of coffee and hickory smoked pork products.
It is the booth in the back. The one chock-full of white-haired men who are engaged in solving America’s biggest problems over bottomless cups of Joe.
It is the waitress who calls you “baby,” and does this non-ironically.
It is the cook who can crack 12 eggs, stir the grits, and fry the belly of an entire sow using only one hand.
You walk into Salem’s Diner, and you’re taken backward on the timeline because these people are the characters of your childhood.
You grab a seat. The waitress approaches you with a coffee urn. She is no spring chick.
Her name is Joyce. She is a little long in the tooth to be a waitress.
Joyce tells you she has been working for the Salem family since she was 14 years old. Currently, she is a great-grandmother.
“Got a job working here when I was a little girl,” she says. “The Salems treated me good from Day One. I just never found a reason to leave.”
Our cook today is Spencer. Spencer is prepping his flat top for today’s lunch rush. There is always a lunch rush at Salem’s.
That’s because this little out-of-the-way diner was recently voted to have the best Philly cheesesteaks in the United States. Not long ago, a famous TV personality told an audience on network television that Salem’s Diner had better Philly cheesesteaks than Philly. This place became world famous overnight.
Spencer is partly responsible…