There is an old, greasy spoon 24-hour diner in Pittsburgh called Ritter’s that was a regular stop for me when I was in college. I absolutely adored this place: me and my friends would spend a long time there just drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes.
Why I love Ritter’s: The food is good. The food is cheap. The diner was probably last renovated in the 70’s–the interior is all wooden paneling and avocado booths. And that brown–that 1970s brown. You know which one I’m talking about. The scrubs-clad waitresses are surly (I’d be surly, too if I were serving drunk college kids at 3 am) but that just adds to the joint’s charm. It’s cash-only in that pain in the neck, but in a oh-well -I’ll-forgive-you-because-I’m-already-here-and-I-really-need-a-meatloaf-sandwich way. Plus! Ritter’s has (functioning) table-top mini jukeboxes. It don’t get any quainter than that.
One of my best nights there, was Halloween (let’s say 1999?) when my date and I were dressed as Scully* and Mulder and we went there for a post-party bite. As we were paying our bill some dude yelled at us, “Mulder! Scully! There are aliens outside!” and ran out the door like a bat out of hell. It was fab. I would share a photo with you but all of my college-era (and high school. And grad school) photos are tucked away in some boxes in my parents’ house.
Through the years I tried a lot of the menu items (buckwheat pancakes? Blarg), but I had 3 favorites: the Diner Burger Deluxe (the inclusion of fries is what made it deluxe), the onion-mushroom-cheese omelet (with wheat toast and hash browns), and the fried green tomatoes.
Fried Green Tomatoes (and maybe pierogies) are permanently on the wipe-off “specials” board at the door. One night I ended up ordering them since I never had them. Well, it was love at first bite. So delicious. So fried. And juicy. And smothered in horseradish sour cream.
And regardless of when I went to Ritter’s, who I was with, or what else I was eating, I always, ALWAYS had to have the fried green tomatoes.
I’d like a banana split. Oh! And an order of fried green tomatoes.
Well, since I haven’t lived in Pittsburgh for over 3 years, and haven’t stopped by on any of my visits home, I haven’t had fried green tomatoes in ages. When I found myself with those green tomatoes from 68. Lamb Shanks with Red Wine, I knew exactly what I’d do with them! I knew that one of my cookbooks would have a fried green tomato recipe–and I was right. And I wasn’t surprised by which one it was.
That’s Presley as in The King himself. I mean, of course an Elvis cookbook would have fried green tomatoes! The book was written by his Uncle Vester (what a great name!) and Nancy Rooks, the head cook at Graceland from 1967 until the King’s untimely death. It is a hefty tome and there are a lot of good ol’ Southern recipes that I’d love to try. This is so my problem nowadays–so many recipes and so little time!
Anyway, look at the pretty tomatoes!
I got to pull out the ol’ electric skillet for this one. These turned out great. Just as good as Ritter’s. The only difference was my dipping sauce–I didn’t have sour cream so I ended up using Ranch dressing that I pepped up with some horseradish. It was a suitable substitution.
I then tried a healthier, baked version, by using just egg whites and cooking spray, and although they were passable, they were nowhere near as good as the real thing!
I am glad that I know I can make this treat at home. Oddly enough, I haven’t seen them on a single menu down here in Baltimore, and you’d think I would have! But I never see grits, either. What kind of south-of-the-Mason-Dixon town is this?
Speaking of Baltimore–and Elvis. Did you know that there is an annual event here called Night of a 100 Elvises? Oh, it’s true and this year will be their 20th year!
How the hell have I never gone to this?
Seriously. Look at that! That is a group of line-dancing middle aged lady Elvises.
Re-read that sentence.
Mark your calendars, kittens. December 6th & 7th. Who wants to be my date?
*This was the first time that Gillian Anderson (that bitch!) made me cut all of my hair off and dye it red.