On the corner of Hillside Avenue and Homelawn Street in Jamaica, Queens, you’ll find Richie’s Place. As you stroll into this small diner, the booths and faux-marble countertop will remind you of the diners you’ve seen in a hundred movies. While I was sitting there, the beat cop came in for coffee and small talk. The other people at the counter idled over their eggs to chat with the wait staff. I’ve been here a few times prior to this Off the Griddle visit, and each time the owner and the staff have been very friendly. In fact, Richie’s Place would probably constitute the kind of genuine Americana diner your grandparents used to eat at.
(image from Google maps)
Confession: I didn’t look at the menu before I asked for pancakes. It’s that kind of a place. As I was chowing down on my short stack of two pancakes, I noticed the specials board. I could have gotten my pancakes with home fries, toast, and tea for another two bucks. Considering I paid $3.95 for my pancakes and tea, I still think I did alright here. The prices at Richie’s are bafflingly low. I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than $7 for some pretty filling meals. I’m not sure how they can turn a profit, but perhaps it gets a lot more foot traffic than I normally see when I’m in there.
(pancake economics from The Economist)
But hey, you don’t read my column for an economic analysis of the breakfast industry, so on to the pancakes. In reviewing my notes, I saw I initially described the pancakes as serviceable and workmanlike. They’re good, slightly fluffy, and very filling; however, they are not fancy pancakes. If you read this blog on a regular basis, I’m going to venture a guess and describe you as something of a foodie. Richie’s pancakes are very good, but they are not foodie pancakes. Richie’s is a solid, no-frills diner, and the food reflects that. Personally, I immensely enjoy places like Richie’s. I could happily chow down at those kind of establishments for the rest of my life.
If, however, you are the kind of person who prefers a more unique, sophisticated, or “fancy” dining experience, Richie’s is probably not the place for you. It’s the difference between food and cuisine. Richie’s serves breakfast food. Clinton Street Bakery (which is excellent) serves breakfast cuisine. Richie’s makes a damn good pancake, but it’s a pancake you’re already familiar with. Places like Clinton Street Bakery are more likely to offer you something new. I love both, but if you prefer the latter I’ve given you fair warning.
All in all, I would give Richie’s Place three and a half Paul Bunyans. It’s a greasy spoon, but it serves some great food at nineteen-fifties prices: