I may have mentioned that we stopped by Rick's White Light Diner on Monday and it was closed. Today after picking the truck up from the shop (it's actually fixed now, pretty sure) and running a couple errands, I decided to stop in for a late lunch/early dinner at around 3:30pm (they're open 'til 5pm).
I walked in and was greeted by Rick, who handed me a menu. I sat at the bar and Rick asked me where I was from. I told him Portland, OR and he said "Oh, so you've only got a short drive now to get your weed." (On the television behind him I could see on the news a story playing about newly legalized marijuana in CO and WA…) Current events.
Several things on the menu sounded good so I asked what I should get. Rick said "Oh, maybe the muffaletta or a po'boy." Jennifer (cook, server, and probably a lot of other things because it's a small place with a small staff) said "Muffaletta" so I went with that and a side of fried green tomatoes and horseradish sauce.
Since it was late in the day, I was the only customer right then and it was fine with me because I ended up hanging out shootin' the shit with Rick until just about closing. It was a great way to spend my afternoon.
We talked about Rick's bread recipe, about when he was on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and that he attended the Culinary Institute of America. (Seriously, go watch that video of the episode. You'll get a good feel for what Rick's like. He's awesome.)
We talked about sustainable ingredients. He only uses the best ingredients he can find: farm eggs, grass-fed hormone-free beef, fish from fishermen he knows, as many local things as he can, etc.
We talked about politics and photography and people-watching, and how the diner is a little like a theater and the customers are the audience. He told me some hilarious stories of crazy customers.
He told me about a customer who came in once and said he changed his mind and wasn't going to eat there after all. When Rick asked him why, he said "Because it's too expensive." Rick said "Too expensive for what? You don't know me, you don't know anything about my food or my ingredients or how I do things. I think you're right, you'd better leave." Or something to that effect. Rick is that guy who is solid and frank and says what he thinks. He stands strongly behind what he makes and how he makes it…like every artist should. ("That painting? Hm. I don't like it. It's too expensive." Lame.)
Perhaps it's the diner ambiance that makes some people feel that way, but the food is solid and the place has a wonderful vibe. Outside it's this cool little retro tile building ("Ladies Invited" "Courteous Service" … click image to enlarge).
Inside it's a bright chaotic hodge podge of…well…probably of Rick Paul's personality.
Toward the end of my visit a boy about 13 or 14 came in holding a few bills in his hand and asked "How much for a burger?" Rick said "Twenty dollars…..nah not really. How much y'got? I'll make you a burger for….$2.50." Kid said okay. Rick asked if he wanted cheese. Kid said "Sure." Rick said "That'll make it seven bucks" and smiled at the kid.
It was a sweet exchange. Rick got up from his chill spot on the counter and made the kid a burger. A burger with cheese. For $2.50. You won't get it for $2.50, but I'm sure even for $8.50 (remember: grass-fed, hormone-free beef, comes with a large side) it's a damn fine burger.
p.s. I think Kevin and I will head over on Saturday morning to try "The Best Eggs Benedict" (says so right on the menu) before hitting the bourbon trail. (Check out the menus here.)