Philly’s Blue Plate Diner, which has been open for a little over a year, is a really cool but curious place. It sits at the makai end of the Azeka Makai Shopping Center, and is difficult to spot from the road.
Those who manage to find it’s blue neon sign and decide to stop by will find a lot going on inside. Largely open to the parking lot, Philly’s nonetheless offers a few tables for outside dining.
When I stopped by one recent Saturday afternoon, a talented guitar player was near the front door, playing Hawaiian tunes. The walls are covered with photos of old Hollywood—the Rat Pack, Marilyn Monroe, I Love Lucy, Betty Boop and even Andy Griffith—as well as images commemorating old Hawai‘i travel posters. Gold records—not actual awards, just records that are gold—hang over the bar. A few surfboards, including one rigged for windsurfing, hang from the huge ceiling beams, which have been painted silver. There are also about five television sets, assorted Christmas decorations and lots of the thick, distorted glass squares you generally find in optometrists’ offices.
Indeed, the place still sports some diamond plate on the walls and a few Harley Davidson stools that marked the place when it used to be Cevoli’s Motorcycle Café, though that joint closed some years ago.
Philly’s also has incredibly wide counter tops, which are actually quite comforting. This last detail makes a certain sense, because Philly’s specializes in what restaurateurs and food critics call “comfort food”–bacon &eggs, meatloaf and steak–though they also offer more sophisticated fare like prawns and steamer clams.
Now I’ve always hated the term “comfort food,” believing it a lazy way to say high-fat, high-sugar American food, but that hasn’t stopped most people—including science!—from adopting the phrase. In fact, in 2003 University of California at San Francisco researchers released the results of a study of lab rats showing that “comfort food” plays a biochemical role in fighting chronic stress.
“Our studies suggest that comfort food applies the brakes on a key element of chronic stress,” study co-author Norman Pecoraro, PhD., said in a Sept. 11, 2003 ScienceDaily release. “This seems to be the body’s way of telling the brain, ‘It’s ok, you can relax, you’re refueled with high-energy food.”
Of course, Pecoraro also pointed out that yoga, meditation and sex can also release chronic stress without adding pounds to your mid-section or harden your arteries, but for many people, it’s easier to just chow down.
Now I wasn’t feeling particularly stressed when I went to Philly’s and opted to try what has got to be their most comfortable of comfort foods—the Chicken fried steak and eggs—but it was certainly pleasurable.
“That looks so good,” the server told me as she placed a giant platter of food before me. The steak was immense—at least six inches in diameter—and thickly breaded. It was also drowning in thick gravy. Off to one side were home fried potatoes—it appeared to be a pretty skimpy portion, until I realized the steak itself was resting on potatoes. The other side of the plate contained two scrambled eggs and a biscuit.
The whole thing was delicious, though I didn’t dare finish it. Had I actually swallowed every last bite, I doubt I would have had a comfortable afternoon. MTW