I'm in Carlyle, Illinois teaching a workshop this weekend. We all went to a diner together for lunch today, and I had a patty melt. Remember patty melts? You don't see them on too many menus anymore...at least not in the Northwest. Had kinda forgotten about them...
I remember my first patty melt. It was 1973, I was 17, and I'd just started working as a waitress at Sambo's in Hillsboro, Oregon. (don't yell at me...I didn't name the place, I just poured coffee there!) I wore a 100% polyster white uniform with a skirt ending far too high on the thigh for a chubby girl...(don't yell at me about that, either!) I worked 2 nights a week and weekends and poured loads of 10 cent cups of coffee and served a thousand silver dollar pancakes and Hamburger Steak dinners with grilled onions.
I was an earnest, but lousy, waitress. Too flighty to remember to serve them their iceberg lettuce salads before their dinners came...too giggly to rack up the tips. And way too naive to know what to do with the hordes of drinkers who formed a line around the building every Friday and Saturday night at 2:15, right after the bars closed. They all wanted coffee now. And eggs now. And pancakes now. And they wanted it loudly. And they all loved to tease the smiling, nervous, harried blonde who blushed a furious magenta when she brought scrambled instead of over-easy.
After each brutal shift, we got a free meal. My very first meal at Sambo's was a patty melt because I thought the name was groovy. I thought it was named after a girl named Patty.
I'm not lying. It is true.
Doesn't matter...I loved that sandwich from the first bite, and not just because I loved the name. Slathered in Heinz, I thought it was an astounding combination of greasy, crunchy, savory, cheesy loveliness. I had a patty melt nearly every night that I worked that year...only occasionally flirting with a shrimp basket or a Chef's Salad w/ thousand island.
It's probably been over a decade since I had a patty melt....until lunch today. I gotta tell ya, it's still a damn fine sandwich...at least at Cruiser's in Carlyle...