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Wednesday, 16 October 2013 00:00

This must be the place

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art theplaceHelp.

That’s what was texted to me a couple weeks ago. It was my co-worker at the newspaper, stuck in mud somewhere in the backwoods of Maggie Valley. Normally, I would finally get to sleep in on a Saturday morning, but not this time. I pulled myself out of bed, cranked my pickup truck and headed out of Waynesville.

 

After almost an hour of digging, pushing and pulling with a towrope, my old truck yanked her out of the deep muck. Rolling back through the main drag in Maggie Valley, I began to get hungry. I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, and boy-o-boy could I go for some eggs and bacon amid endless cups of coffee. And just as I decided to find a diner, my vision came across Carver’s Maggie Valley Restaurant.

I strolled in, my boots proudly covered with the mud of a damsel in distress, and found a seat in the back of the room. The server placed a pot of coffee in front of me and left. I wondered if she forgot it, but quickly realized each table got their own pot for consumption. How great, right? Finishing my meal, I was stuffed and slowly relaxed into the impending day. I enjoyed the atmosphere of Carver’s, the history of the area hung all over the walls, and the friendly nature of the establishment (hence this week’s feature story on the restaurant).

I grew up in the northeast, and the “American diner” is a big deal above the Mason-Dixon Line. There’s something to be said about the innumerable 24-hour Greek or hometown diners, filled with menus as big and elaborate as a textbook, where your coffee cup never goes empty and breakfast is as fresh and available at 3 a.m. as it is at 3 p.m. 

As a kid, I always looked forward to going to the local diner in the morning with my father. He’d sit there reading the newspaper while I’d eat my breakfast and talk about whatever was on my mind that day. For years, we’d continue this tradition, and still do whenever I get the chance to head back to Upstate New York.

While in college, my cronies and I would hit up nearby diners for food once the bars closed. But, as I came into my senior year, something changed. That something was my epiphany to become a writer. I began sitting in diners for hours, reading Kerouac or Thompson or Mailer, and writing about whatever I was thinking about. The Acropolis in Hamden, Conn., is where I learned how to write. I’d hole up in the back booth with a handful of novels and my notebook ready to be filled with words. The variation of people and situations that would swirl around my table fascinated me, and I’d write about them. 

With my first reporting job in eastern Idaho came my greatest controversy as a member of the media. In rural Teton County, there were three places that served breakfast, and each only served one slice of toast (cut into two triangular pieces) per two eggs. Now, being a self-proclaimed diner aficionado, I knew there was a standard to breakfast, which was two slices of toast (cut into four triangular pieces) per two eggs. 

After further research and investigation into the matter, it turned out my numbers were correct. When the feature, titled “Chasing the American Dream of Breakfast,” hit newsstands that week, all hell broke loose. An argument over the issue spread like wildfire throughout the county. Even these many years later, I can still hear vibrations from the incident echo from the high desert plains and mountain peaks of the Grand Tetons. The kicker to all of this resulted in the article receiving the 2008 Idaho Press Club award for “Best Light Feature” — an accolade that threw more fuel onto the controversy.

And as I sat there in Carver’s, I felt at home, in a diner I had never been in before. The business was another fine culinary spot that follows a long line and storied history that is “the American diner.” 

There are plenty of such locations around Western North Carolina, with many listed below. Oh, and all are most definitely serving two slices of toast (cut into four triangular pieces) per two eggs.

Haywood County

• Carver’s Maggie Valley Restaurant

• Clyde’s Restaurant (Waynesville)

• Dean’s Haywood Café (Waynesville)

• DuVall’s Restaurant (Waynesville)

• J Creek Café (Waynesville)

• Joey’s Pancake House (Maggie Valley)

• Sherrill’s Pioneer Restaurant (Clyde)

Jackson County

• Cullowhee Café (Sylva)

• The Coffee Shop (Sylva)

Macon County

• City Restaurant (Franklin)

• Normandie (Franklin)

Swain County 

• Everett Street Diner (Bryson City)

• The Iron Skillet (Bryson City)

 

 

Hot picks

1: The Trail Magic #6 Release Party will be Oct. 18-19 at Nantahala Brewing Company in Bryson City.

2: The Flea Bitten Dawgs and ‘Round the Fire performduring “Octoberfest” Oct. 19 at Bear Waters Brewing in Waynesville.

3: Writer Dan Pierce will present his book Corn from a Jar Oct. 24 in the Mountain Heritage Center at Western Carolina University.

4: The 23rd annual Swain County Chamber of Commerce Chili Cook Off will be Oct. 19 in downtown Bryson City.

5: Singer/songwriter Spanky will perform Oct. 19 at Frog Level Brewing in Waynesville.

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