Friday, February 3, 2006

Yes Virginia, there is a coney dog

After calling in an order for lunch today, I found that I have become a regular.

You know - one of those folks who goes to the same spot and the same time and orders the same thing. That's me.

I use my Fridays as a sort of "me day." I grab a red-eye coffee on the way in to work, I treat myself to lunch out (as opposed to my regularly packed sandwhich-and-chips), and I take a nap when I get home from work. Pretty regular.

This week, however, it all came in to sharp focus. I made the call to the Virginia Coney Island across the street, my regular spot, and the woman on the other end knew (a) who I was, (b) what I wanted, and (c) when I would make it across the street. She was good.

Before I ate my first lunch at the Virginia I was warned that the clientele was "shady" and the atmosphere was "too blue collar." In other words, it was a real live local restaurant, full of working people who loved crinkle fries as much as I did. You can't beat the prices ($5 for my lunch, usually) and you can't beat the view of Michigan Ave. out the steamed-up windows.

There's an obsession with local, Jackson-made coneys. We make them different than any other place in America, and are nationally known for our dynamic coney dogs. Supposedly, the "coney stuff" we put on top of our coneys - a dry mix, as opposed to the wet, sloppy-joe style coney mix - is unique to Jackson. Damn tasty, too. As a result, a local fascination with the weiners has sprung up, and given Jackson a sense of local gustational pride.

I love the coneys at the Virginia. And the cute waitress - the one who answers the phone - doesn't hurt either. To achieve true "regular-hood" however, I'll have to learn her name.

When I first started going, the waitress yelled at me because I dumped my ketchup on napkins. Now she gives me a bowl, a ketchup depository, for my condiments. Today she even had a Diet Coke waiting for me at my usual spot. They know me there. And that's a good feeling.

Sometimes a person's "regular-hood" can be unwelcome. If you're a regular at the local jail or brothel, a co-worker pointed out, it can be a bad thing.

But being a regular at the Virginia is a good thing, no bones about it.

Who's up for crinkle fries?

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