He slices everything coarsely, mixes it into a large heap and goes at it with a slice of toast in his left hand and fork in the right. While he eats (toast, fork, toast, fork) the young women wolf down plates of food that "is sooooo bad" for them. When he has finished and stacked up his plates, the man pulls out a red bandana and turns away from the girls to blow his nose. The waitress clears his plates and goes to refill his coffee cup. He shakes his head and gestures to the three girls. They're too close to ignore it but don't know what he wants. He points again and says in just a whisper, "Café? Más café?" They smile widely, say, "No, thank you. Gracias," but he has already turned away, and their faces drop into confusion.

The waitress looks at them. "Oh, he can't hear," she says and leaves their check.
— Kristen Klempert


Tiffany's Original Diner, 1:49 p.m. Donny's in town from the West Coast — he won't get more specific than that — running through comedy sketches with a friend over the phone.

Standard diner accessories at the Buttery.
Standard diner accessories at the Buttery.
The staff of Lisa's Diner takes a break.
The staff of Lisa's Diner takes a break.

Location Info

Map

Lumière Place Casino

999 N. Second St.
St. Louis, MO 63102

Category: Casinos

Region: St. Louis - North Downtown

Courtesy Diner

3155 S. Kingshighway
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Dogtown

The Buttery

3659 S. Grand Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63118

Category: Restaurant > Diner

Region: St. Louis - South Grand

Tiffany's Original Diner

7402 Manchester Road
Maplewood, MO 63143

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Maplewood

Courtesy Diner

1121 Hampton Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Dogtown

Uncle Bill's Pancake & Dinner House

3427 S. Kingshighway
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - South City

City Diner

3139 S. Grand Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63118

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - South Grand

Eat-Rite Diner

622 Chouteau Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63102

Category: Restaurant > Diner

Region: St. Louis - Downtown

Denny's

1515 Hampton Ave.
St Louis, MO 63139-3038

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - South City

Coffee Cartel

2 Maryland Plaza
St. Louis, MO 63108

Category: Coffee Shops

Region: St. Louis - Central West End

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"So they blamed Dwayne for all of the plagues, but he really only caused the last one. He comes home from school, grinning, on the day of the death of the firstborn. Didn't affect him, because he was adopted." Donny pauses, gives the person on the other end a chance to think about it. "Dwayne the Egyptian: He benefited from the death of the firstborn. Isn't that a funny thing?"

As he paces through Tiffany's — first leaning against the counter, then sitting on the edge of a chair near the video-poker machine, then shuffling back to the counter again — Donny worries aloud about the complexity of his routine. "Once I get into the Red Sea, there are just too many details," he laments. "I'm thinking about doing the one about the teenage dolphins smoking pot in a station wagon. It's hilarious. But I have to pass a joint and do two different dolphin voices."

He stares thoughtfully at the video-poker screen. "Once you get into the mechanics, you lose the magic."

Donny's the only one talking in the diner, except for when Marilyn engages customers in conversation, something she does frequently and with considerable charm. She provides an exhaustive, nearly academic description of the various ways to cook eggs, after a teenage customer says she finds runny yolks creepy. She gives a regular patron an update on a change coming soon to Tiffany's: the daily lunch plate. Fried chicken on Tuesdays, pork steaks on Thursdays, your choice of two sides.

"Sounds good," says the regular. "Seems like you guys are doing a good business again."

Marilyn waves her hand, either dismissing the compliments or making a more general gesture about the impact the bad economy has had on this small place, where everything is homemade, cheap and delicious.

Today Tiffany's is doing good business. The stream of customers has been steady. This is a place where little things matter: onion and green peppers mixed into the crisp hash browns, the TV turned to the History Channel so a customer could watch a program about World War II. If business ever slows, it's because of an outside force. Nothing to do with what's happening inside.

Donny's still on the phone, this time with a producer for a cable show he's doing, and he's offering a mea culpa. "I'll take the fall. This is the truth: No one is exempt from criticism. Even Jesus Christ took criticism for what he did." He takes a deep breath. "I'm OK with things not going well. I have to be."
Brooke Foster


Courtesy Diner (Hampton), 2:43 p.m. The tail end of the lunch rush, but the newer, less grungy Courtesy Diner still hums with activity — literally hums, as the ventilation hoods keep pace with the hissing grills. Burgers are the hot item right now, the cook tossing patties on the flattop as casually as you might deal playing cards.

"Looks like we got a lot of young kids in here," a waitress tells the cook. Young children? Not so much. Teenagers and young adults? Yes. They throng the counter and fill the booths, snippets of their chatter now and then rising above the collective hubbub:

"Are you that stupid?"

"Can I have one of those steaks?"

"You have to get right with your child."

"Those aren't steaks. They're pork chops."

"I'm like, 'You're a douche. I hate you. If I could punch you right now, I would.'"

This last statement dissolves in a fit of giggles. And then, suddenly, silence. The counter is empty, save for a father and young daughter digging into bowls of chili. The booths are abandoned. With the grill empty, the hum of the ventilator hoods fills the space.

After a while the cook ventures out from behind the counter and feeds the jukebox: Elvis followed by George Thorogood and the Destroyers followed by Cher.

Anything to drown out the hum.
— Ian Froeb


Uncle Bill's Pancake and Dinner House (Kingshighway), 2:57 p.m. Despite the few cars in the parking lot with out-of-state plates (Iowa, New York, Minnesota), the stone-and-brick diner sits largely empty. Inside, the staff takes advantage of this downtime by refilling salt and pepper shakers, whisking away drained coffee pots and wringing out wet towels over old plastic ice-cream buckets.

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