“I’m going to have ‘Roxie’s Flame Thrower’,” I decided … a burger with hot peppers, barbecue sauce, and pepper Jack cheese.
This was one of my best ever culinary choices. The nippy condiments, which I love, did nothing to overcome the flavorful and perfectly cooked thick and juicy burger underneath. “100 per cent beef and charbroiled,” said the menu notation.
We’d been wandering some new-to-me northern Ontario countryside when hunger pangs struck in the little hamlet of Port Loring.
“We’ll have lunch at Jack’s Cafe,” said my friend and driver.
Not. Closed. Drove on. But look! Up on that hill. A modest little motel, and close beside it, a small, horizontal edifice proclaiming Roxie’s Diner. Why not?
Just inside the door to the right, sat a happy and voluble bunch of what could only be called the locals, or the regulars. To the left, empty tables.
“Sit where you like,” said a casual Roxie (we presumed).
We settled into a sunny table by the window where we could enjoy the fast-fading autumn day beyond.
The menus appeared … and my notebook came out of my bag! This was too good to forget.
When Roxie returned to take our orders she noticed me madly scribbling and I asked if I could hold on to the menu for awhile.
“Here, I’ll make a copy for you,” she said, and shortly came back with the three copied pages.
I added a new word to my food lexicon that day. “Frings” — a plate of half fries and half onion rings. “Frings & Things” equals a plate of fries, onion rings, and deep fried pickles!
When it came to the breakfast menu, a dash of politically incorrectness simply added to the flavor.
Eggs and toast with ham, bacon, sausage or Newfie steak meant you could choose bologna if you wished.
“Mervin’s Redneck Special” included all the cholesterol cringing arteries could imagine — three eggs, toast, bacon, sausage, bologna and home fries.
A “McRoxie” simply substituted sausage for the ham in that ‘other’ handheld breakfast.
At the bottom of the sandwiches department there was a delightful option: *Home Baked Bread or Store Bought. What a decision that must be!
Sprinkled throughout Roxie’s menu were assorted happy faces — round, squashed, elliptical — but all smiling with gustatory satisfaction.
If any one of the five wraps offered didn’t feel filling enough, they, along with the sandwiches had this addendum: *Add soup, tossed salad or fries and POOF!!! You have a Platter — $3.50.
What? No frings?
As the last of my Roxie’s Flame Thrower and my friend’s Alaskan Pollock (deep fried in Roxie’s secret batter! Includes homemade beans, fries, and slaw) disappeared, we just happened to think about that sign we saw as we came in the door, “Home-baked pies — Apple, Cherry, Blueberry or Raisin.”
“Do you have the cherry pie?”
“Two cherry pie, please. Yes, one with ice cream.”
As we downed the last of our serendipitous lunch, the autumn day cooled and a sunlit sky turned to a rosy grey; the other tables on our side of the diner quickly began to fill up. We were obviously not the first admirers of that fantastic menu.
Stopping at the counter on our way out, I noticed the array of mugs, each with a name, hanging from its own peg on the wall behind — the regulars’, no doubt.
Back in the car, we eased down the hill and a sign came up in lights, Hollywood style, on the slope — “Roxie’s Diner”.
Next time you’re in Port Loring, don’t miss it!
— Nancy Whelan is a regular News columnist.