I wake up Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m., embarrassed to have had a few too many drinks last night. Needing to recover and be functional, I decide a greasy diner breakfast is the way to go.
My fiancee declines the invitation to join me. We are, after all, getting married in two months and need to be conscious of the wedding outfits we’ve already purchased. So, sunglasses on and book in hand, I make the short walk to Sulimay’s on my own.
I walk in and am immediately greeted by a bearded server who gives my request to sit at the counter a warm, “of course.” That counter, by the way, is everything you expect from a classic diner. Formica top with bar stools attached, backed by a tidy mess of silverware, milkshake blenders, and pitchers for coffee.
He asks what I want to drink and I ask if they have any sparkling water. “Your girl is hungover,” I state. He hands me a gatorade instead. “I got you, this place is my infirmary,” he says. He offers the greasiest thing on the menu, somehow threading the needle between gentle suggestion and a doctor writing a prescription. I thank him but decide to go in a different direction — eggs over easy, rye toast, and hash browns.
I open my book and try to focus my eyes. My mind wanders and I overhear conversations all around me. The other server is new. She is introducing herself to her tables and asking for their names. She says she has a lot of names to learn but is hoping to remember them all soon. A family introduces their little boy as Jack. The server says “I love that name!” and they chat some more. These conversations are so soothing.
A man walks in and sits a few stools down. He’s apparently a regular, and the bearded server asks about his upcoming art show. They discuss the difficult logistics. It’s clear they’re picking up where previous conversations left off.
My food arrives and I take a bite, reveling in its immediate curative effect on my hangover. I sop up the yolks with my toast and mix in the hashbrowns. This is divine intervention.
A commercial plays on the radio. Danny DeVito quips about a date he had at a chain restaurant as a child. I think about his relationship with Rhea Pearlman, one of the waitresses on the show Cheers. “Where everybody knows your name.”
While I’m eating, a man walks in carrying his young daughter. “Sit anywhere you’d like,” says the server. “Do you need a high chair?” The man declines and finds a booth. The server is already preparing a sippy cup of water for the child. My neighbor is asked if he’d like his usual order — short stack of chocolate chips and scrambled eggs. He accepts.
He and the bearded server begin a conversation about the recent near-death experiences they’ve had driving on I-95. The conversation moves to the crashes that happen outside the diner on a daily basis — a perilous intersection at Girard Avenue and Berks Street where the confusion of trolley tracks and four car lanes result in dramatic accidents. I pipe in to ask whether the neighborhood association has had any luck trying to make it safer. The three of us commiserate about how we lack creative solutions to improve it. While the server attends to others, my neighbor and I continue to talk. We talk about biking. He has a motorcycle and I have a road bike. He, a large mustachioed and tattooed man, tells me I’m brave for bicycling in this city.
We end the conversation with a lament. If only people could be just a little more considerate of the lives of others, things would be better. At the diner, that is what I see — people demonstrating their consideration for others.
I wish this place could be here forever. A relic, the only diner I know of in my neighborhood. I think about the disappearing presence of the diners in this city. I mourn them.
I sit down to write and reflect on my morning. Breakfast at Sulimay’s. A place where the considerate work and dine on a Saturday morning.
Sulimay’s Restaurant | 632 E. Girard Ave. | 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily | Cash only, no split checks
Katie Faris is an amateur philosopher and classicist trapped in the body of a lawyer. She lives in Fishtown with her fiancee and dog, and enjoys paddle boarding the waterways of Philadelphia in her spare time.