This is the Donut Dinette in the Ghent neighborhood of Norfolk, just 4 miles from my house through the Midtown Tunnel. This tunnel takes me underneath the Elizabeth River which separates our two cities, something I contemplate as I frequently drive through it.
I often wonder what size of ship is actually navigating through the harbor right over my head there as I drive underneath. It could be a dear red tuggie, a Navy ship, a coal barge or even a Mickey Mouse ship, the Disney Magic, which was overhauled in the Titan drydock last month.
Ghent is an eclectic, trendy area of lovingly restored old homes, gorgeous apartment buildings from the the turn of the century with names like "Princess Anne" carved into the lintels, a bird sanctuary and all the hip restaurants. Ghent is so cool it has TWO Starbucks and and an independent coffee shop, too.
The Donut Dinette isn't contrived retro. It is just the way it has always been, with a vintage Coke signs that aren't just old-LOOKING, they've just been there for over sixty years. Authentic old-timey is so much better than "let's try to make this look old."
The "Donut" has only vintage stools inside and what used to be called a lunch counter. It is tiny and there is no room for any booths. These are the kind of stools I used to spin around on to make myself sick as a kid at Shady Glen in East Hartford, CT! In the temperate months, they have tables and chairs out front. However you have to go inside to step back into the past when it almost seems as though you could look down at the Virginian Pilot paper to see where Tommy Dorsey was playing live and learn that Mrs. Roosevelt was visiting in West Virginia to inspect working conditions in the coal mine.
The Donut is one of those places I've passed about a bazillion times and thought, "how cute, we should go there." One night, Bruce and I went for a walk in Ghent. As we passed The Donut, I noticed the that someone was inside the closed restaurant making donuts with his dog; a white dog with a big black patch over his eye curled up on the black and white tiled floor. Okay, the Health Department would have freaked, but I considered it perfection! I had to go.
The Donut's staff are perfect, too. In an age of sometimes surly serice, they are friendly and talkative. They seem to be throwbacks to another time, too. Customers come in, cheerfully teasing each other and staff, reading the paper and "talking story" (as they say in Hawaii. Is that pidgeon English term not a perfect word picture?)
The cooking grill is right out in the open, behind the counter. Two can have the breakfast special and coffee for under $20 with tip, which is A-okay in my estimation. Last time I was there I had eggs over medium and rye toast (no grits for this transplanted Yankee, read a vintage decorating magazine, spun around on my stool just a little, held hands with Bruce and thought of how sublime life can be.