A dish with baked beans, black pudding, sliced sausage, fried mushrooms and toast
In the United Kingdom, greasy spoons are generally called cafes, which in The South is often colloquially referred to as a “caff”. Not all cafs are greasy spoons, however.
The typical greasy spoon serves mainly fried or grilled food, such as fried eggs, bacon, black pudding, bubble and squeak, burgers, sausages, mushrooms and chips. These are often accompanied by baked beans, cooked tomatoes, and fried bread. Hot and cold sandwiches are also often available, the bacon or sausage butty being particularly popular. The main drink in British greasy spoons is usually tea, especially Builders tea (a nickname for a mug of strong English/Irish breakfast tea or Yorkshire tea, usually served with milk and sugar and is typically robust and flavourful with a brisk character and a dark red colour). Often the only coffee available will be instant, though this has slowly changed with the proliferation of coffee drinking in the culture. British greasy spoons will sometimes also offer bread and butter pudding, apple crumble and rhubarb crumble.
The greasy spoon was also the mainstay of British truck drivers who travelled the major trunk roads such as the A1 and the A6 prior to the opening of the motorways. These cafes were not only stops where the driver could eat but also made convenient meeting places where the trade unions could talk to their members. In 2001, a story broke in the UK press about how the European Union were making an attempt to ban the greasy spoon cafes. This turned out to be a hoax based on an EU report about eating habits of long distance drivers and their health.
In the United Kingdom, the traditional greasy spoon has been in decline due to the rise of fast food chains. However, they remain numerous all over the UK, especially in certain parts of London, Manchester, and many seaside towns.
Small diner in Brooklyn
Many typical American greasy spoons focus on fried or grilled food, such as fried eggs, bacon, burgers, hot dogs, hash browns, waffles, pancakes, omelettes, deep fried chicken and sausages. These are often accompanied by baked beans, french fries, cole slaw, or toast. Soups and chili con carne are generally available. Since the 1970s many Greek immigrants have entered the business; as a result, gyros and souvlaki meats are now a common part of the repertoire, often served as a side dish with breakfast as a replacement for bacon or sausage. A full meal may be available for a special price, often called a blue-plate special. A typical blue plate special might include a slice of meatloaf, mashed potatoes with gravy, a cooked green vegetable, and a dinner roll. Regional fare is often served. Coffee, iced tea and soft drinks are the typical beverages, and pie and ice cream are popular desserts.
Regional terms for these restaurants vary. In the Northeast, the term “greasy spoon” is unusual; the (more general) term “diner” is used instead.
In Hong Kong a greasy spoon is called a cha chaan teng (literal translation: “tea restaurant”). The menu and setting are somewhat similar to British greasy spoons, probably due to Hong Kong being a former British colony. Normally the menu will include traditional Chinese dishes including fried or boiled noodles, or plates of fried rice, while the “Western” menu includes French toast, spaghetti bolognese, full English breakfast (albeit Sinicized[clarification needed]), pork chop with spaghetti, grilled chicken club, etc. These choices are usually accompanied by a triangular piece of toast and a choice of coffee, tea, Horlicks, Ovaltine (for children), or a Hong Kong specialty called yuanyang (a mixture of milk, coffee and tea). Most cheese-based dishes are not served in Hong Kong greasy spoons, due to Chinese tastes.
Usually greasy spoon cafs are known as “Cafes”, while traditional Chinese breakfast eateries are called “fried noodle stands”. These eateries typically open early and close after lunch hour, though some are open until late at night. The cost of a meal usually ranges from ten to twenty-five Hong Kong dollars.
In Australia the term ‘greasy spoon’ is used to denote a food outlet which offers largely deep fried foods, chiefly deep fried potato chips (or french fries as they are called in many other parts of the world), battered fish, battered saveloys, fish cakes, potato scallops and other food which can be simultaneously cooked in the deep fryer at the same time as the chips. Barbecue chicken is also a common food to find is such an establishment. The term ‘greasy spoon’ in Australia refers more to the fact that the food being sold is of a very greasy nature but also references the perceived lack of a hygiene standards in preparation that the term suggests in other regions around the world.
‘Greasy spoon’ restaurants are considered a staple of Anglo-Australian culture, especially in beach-side communities. They are one of the more common types of restaurant in Australia.
Coney Island (restaurant)
Pat’s Hubba Hubba
Nick Tahou Hots
^ The Chambers Dictionary. Allied Publishers. 1905-06-22. p. 703. ISBN 9788186062258.
^ “In Ernie Bevin’s Steps”. Time Magazine (Monday, Sep. 02). 1957.
^ “Our greasy spoons in a stir over EU”. Daily Express: 29. 21 September 2001.
^ Steves, Rick (November 2007). Rick Steves England 2008. Avalon Travel Publishing. pp. 504pp. ISBN 1598800973.
Classic Cafes- The Very Best of London’s Twentieth Century vintage Formica caffs
Dell Cafe- The Very Best of Castro Valley, California, greasy spoons – it’s butter paradise. 2631 Castro Valley Blvd, Castro Valley, CA
Categories: American cuisine | British cuisine | Types of restaurantsHidden categories: Articles that may contain original research from September 2007 | All articles that may contain original research | All pages needing cleanup | Wikipedia articles needing clarification from June 2009
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