Drive-in movies. Car hops. Rock 'n' roll. Though human nature compels us to view the past in varying shades of gold, the 1950s almost transcends nostalgia. For those who were there, the smallest of triggers can set off waves of fond memories: a ringing bell leads the mind’s eye back to the polished counter of a soda fountain, and an oldies radio station evokes weekends spent passing quarters through the jukebox slot.
On September 11, 2001, in the midst of tragedy and after 19 years as a flight attendant, Brenda Stranberg decided that she was tired of playing back memories of America’s greatest decade in her head. Looking around her at a cultural landscape that her childhood self would hardly recognize, she teamed up with old friend Naif Makol Jr. and founded Skooter’s, an old-fashioned diner and coffee shop inspired by the simple pleasures of life more than half a century ago. Though somewhat of an anachronism, the diner’s open kitchen has proven wildly popular among the various generations that frequent the sit-down counter to sample thick milk shakes, loaded hot dogs, and burgers topped with fried onions. Between bites, guests can toss coins into the antique jukebox or admonish the diner’s soda jerks for callously dousing their friends with fountain drinks.
Serving 100% fresh ground beef and hand-spun milkshakes, Jake's Wayback Burgers keeps the spirit of classic American diner fare on a culinary iron lung. The menu reads like Moby Dick had Moby Dick been written about all-beef patties, marinated chicken sandwiches, veggie burgers, and caesar salad. Golden fries, onion rings and house-made chips wing-man main attractions while hand-dipped ice cream or milkshakes, such as chocolate banana, coffee, and mint, are tasty post-meal temptations. Jake's Wayback Burgers stirs the menu pot with the Burger of the Month and Shake of the Month. Past monthly specials include the Turkey Dinner, a turkey burger topped with secret recipe stuffing, tangy cranberry sauce and a healthy dose of Norman Rockwell nostalgia, and the Thanksgiving-inspired pumpkin-pie shake.
Since 1964, Blimpie has stacked and shuffled Jersey-style subs for on-the-go grabbers. The variety of items on its highly legible menu spans the savory spectrum, with hot, cold, and panini-grilled sandwich selections. Like the slangy biz terminology rappers give to their newest tracks, every made-to-order sandwich is sliced fresh. Wallet watchers can binge on a budget with a variety of $5 footlong subs, and pound pinchers can indulge sans guilt with The Lighter Stuff, the newest menu line from Blimpie, featuring six sandwiches with fewer than 400 calories and 6 grams of fat. Nostalgic noshers can opt for the classic Blimpie Best, piled high with ham, salami, capicola, prosciuttini, folded provolone, veggies, vinegar, oil, and oregano (6", $4.69). To give meal mittens a rest, guests raise their forks high for fresh picks such as the garden salad ($4.49) or the ultimate club salad, a complex arrangement of lettuce, slow-cured ham, oven-roasted turkey, swiss, smoked cheddar, bacon, and rogue tomatoes ($4.99). Other delectable edibles include cups of the day's finest soup ($2.49+) and complete kids’ meals for diners younger than 12 years old ($3.99).
A fountain's mists drift over a cool, quiet water outside the windows of Vito's By the Water, where chefs have been cooking up traditional Italian food for many years. Following recipes that have been in the owner's family for years, they craft traditional entrees such as New York strip steak with demi-glace or lobster ravioli with vodka-cream sauce. They also adorn thin and Chicago-style deep-dish stuffed crusts with quality toppings such as baby clams, breaded eggplant, and seasoned ricotta.
Vito’s has also sponsored a “So You Think You Can Cook” competition, handing the kitchen over to nine aspiring chefs for a three-day cook-off. Like many timed cooking competitions, this one required the chefs to create a dish using a mystery ingredient, such as bacon or love. The winner received a farm-to-table dinner for 10.