My first real job was at Kopper Kettle in “downtown” Osseo, Minnesota. Busing tables and backing up servers at that booming diner should have put me off food service for a lifetime. Oh how I hated waking up early on Saturday and Sunday mornings, biking into town, and spending the better part of my weekend running dishes and scrubbing tables, constantly spilling hot coffee over the front of my apron, and sucking up to the waitstaff so they’d give me my fair share of tips at the end of a service. I never got used to smelling like grease and cheap pancake syrup. Now, I appreciate the hard work that goes into running a successful restaurant. Back then, I only appreciated sleeping late on Saturdays.
Most every girl I knew from high school waited tables at Kopper Kettle for at least a few months. It wasn’t coincidental. Before you were allowed to tender your notice, you had to provide a new girl to take your place. Once a girl decided she’d had enough, she’d seek out innocent friends (a.k.a. suckers) who needed employment, then tell the waiter-virgin about the cash tips and easy money, and brag about short hours and cushy expectations. We’d never mention the letch who tried to pin us against the Coke machine or sticky tables who left penny tips.
I haven’t lived in Osseo in many years, but we return twice annually to visit my dentist (We’ve been together since I was nine.). This morning we had some time to kill while our daughter got her teeth cleaned, so T suggested we head over to the Kopper Kettle for a quick cup of coffee.
Nothing beats a good small town diner breakfast where pancakes can be ordered a la carte and a friendly waitress pours an endless cup of coffee. In the twenty plus years since I worked there Kopper Kettle has undergone a face lift and seen owners come and go, and the booths are no longer as sticky as when I was in charge of cleanup. Alice was our server. She told us she’d worked at Kopper Kettle since just about the time I left. Peruvians own the place now, and the menu is sprinkled with specialities they brought with them from South America.
Across the street from Kopper Kettle is a wine bar I’ve been meaning to check out. Nectar Wine Bar and Bistro is primarily a dinner joint and our dentist visits are usually in the morning, but Nectar receives pretty decent reviews whenever big city folks brave the evening trek to Osseo. We’ll get there eventually. Today I’ll relish waitresses like Alice who serve crispy hash browns and bring a bottle of ketchup without our asking, who present pancakes so large they flop gently over the side of the plate, and who refill my coffee four times in half an hour without rolling their eyes. Ah the comforts of home.
If a visit to a small town diner isn’t your destiny this weekend, head into the kitchen and make a plate of homemade pancakes. This week’s Called to the Table provides recipes for both blini and Swedish pancakes.