08:50:29 pm on
Wednesday 11 Dec 2019

Jack and Mary
AJ Robinson

Jo Ann and I love to patronize local businesses, especially given where we live, Orlando, Florida. As it’s a rather big metropolis, we have just about every chain restaurant anyone could ever want. It wasn’t always that way.


Orlando was a land of milk and honey in the days BD.

Years ago, back in the time of BD, that is, Before Disney, Central Florida was quiet, known for fruit, cattle and milk. That’s one reason Walt Disney came here; the area had plenty of land, decent infrastructure and easy access to major highway and transportation hubs, not to mention the weather.

One of those local businesses, part of the social infrastructure, is a little restaurant called Jack & Mary’s Diner, at 2323 South Goldenrod Road (407-281-1113). It only serves breakfast and lunch. It opens at 5 am, seven days a week, and closes at 2:30 pm.

We love going there on Sunday mornings. It’s been around for thirty-seven years and is the popular place, despite it being a rather tight and minimal spot. The diner can’t accommodate too many people, it’s in a small strip mall, in a modest suburb of Orlando; it’s the epitome of great home cooking; I love their pancakes.

Our friend, John and Sharon Adams, told us of Jack and Mary’s Diner. They started going there back when they were dating. They still swing by for a nice breakfast or lunch, occasionally.

Now, as we’re getting ready to move and won’t be able to eat there much, we’ve made a point of going there the last couple of Sundays. This past Sunday, sitting in the corner booth, I cast my eyes around the place to take it all in, given its age. It’s clear that over the years they had to retrofit some features into the building.

Air conditioning is what I mean. They have a unit sitting by the front door with piping going through the wall. Above that is a shelf with a nice stereo system so they can play music for the patrons, nice easy listening music. Pictures of various sports figures dot the walls and from the counter you can see the grill and watch the chef at work.


The common charm of small diners.

As we ate, last Sunday, I thought about other places I known, such as Eve’s Coffee Shop and The Arcade, on Martha’s Vineyard. I realized what these places always have in common: good food and good people. They must have those attributes, as they’re competing against the big, largely impersonal chain restaurants.

The folks at Jack & Mary’s Diner are always so nice. The service is fast, the food is great and I especially love their coffee. We were able to sit there, eat casually and make plans for our day.

We had a lot on our plates last Sunday, metaphorically speaking. We were renting a moving van to take some things up to Alexa, my daughter; picking up a new hutch cabinet and dining room table and taking those items to our new place. We thus appreciated eating in peace, not feeling rushed the way chains churn diner through the doors.

Although, I admit the server, with the coffee pot, did keep trying to fill my cup. She was good enough to back off when I covered my cup with my hand. You see, I’m one of those people who does not like my coffee cup topped off.

Some people enjoy their coffee topped off, warmed up. As Jo Ann says, I don’t like my formula messed with once I get the cup just right. Some places are almost like a bird of prey waiting to swoop down on you to fill your cup the second you lower your guard.

Over the years, I had to build up relationships with various restaurant servers to make that issue clear. I’m happy to say that the servers, at Jack and Mary’s Diner, are always good about learning my little quirks. I’m going to miss them.

Soon, we’ll be moving to our new place, which is a long way away, but that doesn’t matter. Although we won’t be eating at Jack & Mary’s Diner as often as we do now, we will be coming back from time to time. This diner is worth the drive.


The unique charm of small businesses.

That’s the charm of local businesses, such as Jack & Mary’s Diner. They possess a unique charm, which chain restaurants can’t; this gives these businesses a special kind of magic that keeps people coming back. Thirty-seven years and counting; I fully intend to be around as they move into their next decade of good cooking.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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