Every good girl deserves pancakes at Jake’s

by Brian Clarey

She’s a good girl, even this week, when by virtue of her young age she’s gotten the short end of the stick: six days stuck at home with her parents while her older brothers go to sleepaway camp.

But she’s a good girl, and she doesn’t complain about the new things her brothers got for camp, about being lonely in the quiet house, about getting shuttled off to work with her daddy so the family can save a few bucks on daycare. And for that she gets lunch, whatever she wants.

I take her to Jake’s Diner, chosen both for its proximity to my office and the likelihood that there will be something she loves on the menu. Burgers? Check. Chicken nuggets? Check. Grilled cheese? What do you think?

But it’s the all-day breakfast that catches her eye, the prospect of a couple of pancakes with strawberries on top too strong to resist. I go for a buttered steak sandwich and am amazed at the price, less than $4. Everything is pretty cheap, with burgers topping out at less than $5 for a double cheese with fries, steaks starting at about $7 — including a $7.96 New York strip and a $12 filet mignon — and all sandwiches existing below the $5 price point. Even the blue plate specials, which run the predictable range between beef tips with rice to meatloaf to country-fried streak, come in at just above $6.

All this is about what one would expect from a diner like Jake’s, along with the long counter, ample booths, pressed-tin ceiling and shortorder action on the griddle. One also would expect the food to come out fast, which it does.

She eyes her short stack as I cut it into small squares for her, unfolds her napkin and puts it on her lap before starting to eat — she’s a good girl, remember — and gives a satisfied little smirk when I push the plate in front of her. She’s interested in my lunch, too: a small, thin skirt steak as opposed to a shredded and formed patty, graced with a touch of special, coppery sauce and served atop a soft, white bun.

A word on the sauce: Jake’s uses a variation on the old Boar & Castle sauce, which is in turn a take on Heinz 57 Sauce — blasphemy, I know, to compare the two. But Jake’s steak sauce is an able complement to the thin, buttered steak sandwich, particularly when a slice of fresh tomato and a bit of raw onion are thrown into the mix.

Jake’s is a full-on diner, meaning 24-hour service, decent coffee, the aforementioned all-day breakfast and — possibly my favorite thing about real diners — homemade pie. Jake’s has several varieties on hand at all times, and my little girl and I discuss the possibility of ordering coconut cream pie or lemon meringue before settling on chocolate cream pie. Because, you know, chocolate.

As luck has it, they are out of chocolate cream pie, but our server brings chocolate-peanut butter silk pie, which is acceptable, even preferential. The pie is fabulous, light but rich and situated on a dense chocolate crust that lingers in the memory even longer than it does in the lips.

As we finish it off, my little girl smiles at me. “It’s like I had two desserts for lunch,” she says. “That’s because you’re such a good girl,” I say.

wanna go?

Jake’s Diner 4220 Wendover Ave. Greensboro 336.297.4141

2206 S. Holden Road Greensboro 336.297.9363