At the intersection of Whalley Avenue and Howe Street, Patricia’s Restaurant serves up breakfast staples from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. all days but Mondays. A classic American diner, Patricia’s is unsurprising in a refreshing way. Cushioned booths and bar-stool seating flank a few sit down tables; painted flatware adorn the wall above the coffee makers and cutlery; and the Greek couple who owns the restaurant divide labor between taking orders and preparing dishes. I stopped by with Kofi a few weeks back, mulling over some assignment from a class I had just left. As I entered Patricia’s, however, the scent of hot coffee and bacon transported me into a world where all that exist are good company and breakfast foods. Richard Gutman, who wrote the literal book on American diners, put it simply in “American Diner: Then & Now”: “People feel good about diners.”
Perhaps it is the connotation of breakfast with leisure; the expectation of french toast and eggs; or even just the physiological effect of caffeine on the human body, but Patricia’s manages to conjure up a homeyness that only leaving Yale’s gothic walls could accomplish. In me, it evokes memories of road trip pit stops and waking up early before an 8 a.m. class for a short stack, coffee and a side of sausage links by the Exeter train tracks. Here in New Haven, a bit off of Broadway, I divide my attention between the omelette, hash browns and coffee before me and the conversation across my booth, and 24 hours suddenly seems like a sufficient amount of time in one day.
The irony in any meal enjoyed out is that many staff are busy at work in creating that experience. Patricia’s is certainly no exception to this. Due to hectic work schedules, after three attempts to set up a time, I was still unable to meet to talk more with the owners. Co-owner Bessie takes guests’ orders, serves tables and cancels checks, and she explained to me that it gets quite busy for her as the main staff managing the front of house — “perhaps next week” would quiet down a bit. Stopping in once more and then calling in over break, Kofi and I unfortunately failed again to find her at a free time. Last time I came in for breakfast, I counted only three people running the restaurant front and back, so I can only imagine.
Even so, Patricia’s fills the breakfast niche appropriately and in such a way that it doesn’t beg much more question. I’ve never waited more than 10 minutes or so for a hot omelette or plate of pancakes. Bessie is amiable and prompt to top up coffee, helping to later reprint a receipt I had forgotten to collect last visit. (Patricia’s is cash only, and an ATM is located conveniently by the entrance.) The bacon is crisp and pancakes fluffy, fulfilling. At Patricia’s, the food and drink arrive unadorned and are enjoyed without pretense; this spot on Whalley is a cornerstone of the Yale-New Haven breakfast market, and I can see why.
From Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks, 1942” to Deborah’s place in “Baby Driver” to the local Waffle House, diners occupy an important place in American culture and comfort food. Call me a romantic, but I agree with Gutman: I feel good about diners. Even if they are idealized, I’ve simply never left Patricia’s without my mood better off from before.
Brandon Liu | firstname.lastname@example.org .