The Madison Diner
Dives and bowling… talk about a match made in heaven. The Madison Diner has been quietly serving up good old fashioned meals from their back corner of the Madison Bowl for many many years. If there is one thing that can make greasy food taste better, it is the cracking of bowling pins in the background. The menu is simple, the prices are reasonable, and the vibe is old fashioned diner all the way. You know us; we quickly love any place that feels like it hasn’t changed much in the past thirty years.
First thing you’ll notice about the Madison Cafe is the lack of tables. In true diner fashion, your only option is to post up on the barstools. A happy high school age kid was working the counter and the grill, and quickly responded to our presence. Ordering was simple as we all got the breakfast combo and an extra pancake. Eggs, two hash browns, bacon, toast, coffee, and a pancake for $7.50 isn’t too shabby. All in all it tasted A-OK too. It is what it is… a good basic breakfast at a reasonable price. I wish I had more to say, but what can you say about toast and eggs and the like? Yeah, it tasted good.
All in the Family at the Madison Diner
More importantly, I noticed the vibe of the Madison Diner was something to be admired. Apparently the man at the counter with us was eating his second breakfast, and he did this quite often. When his coffee cup was empty, he didn’t hesitate to walk behind the counter and fill it himself. W also gathered the kid behind the counter was definitely the owner’s son, and the owner and this man eating his second breakfast were good friends. We also heard all about how the other employee (probably also a family member) was in the back slicing the meat for the day, and we heard about how our particular server was the strictest of the bunch in terms of the 11am breakfast cut-off time. Our 16 year old ran a tight ship, but The highlight of listening to his banter had to be when he showed us the diner’s old sign his little brother painted many years ago. We weren’t eating at a restaurant as much as being a part of a family’s life.
When you’re at a regular restaurant the staff is trained to be friendly but ultimately invisible, but when you’re at a good diner, you feel like you’re eating with your group and the server. There is no separation between the staff and clients at a good greasy spoon. The Madison Diner feels like one of these places.
If I were being honest, I’d admit this was at least our third attempt at eating there. Apparently we kept going on particular Sundays when the diner was closed, but now that we’ve been, we’ll be back. Our young server tried explaining their Sunday schedule and how it changes during particular seasons, but I lost track and stopped listening fairly quickly.
The Madison Diner is, like many others we’ve visited, a great example of what makes a dive great: good food, friendly staff, and fair prices. There’s no need for a bunch of pretentiousness at a place like the Madison Diner… Just price it right, serve it with a smile, and make it edible and you’ll be in good shape. This family has figured it out, and I hope it doesn’t change for the next thirty years.