Photography By Jim Graham

Three Steps From My Door

Diner’s Club

There’s nothing like a great, unassuming breakfast spot to get you started in the morning.

By Jim Graham |

Every morning, I get up, tend to my dog, Thady, and head out my front door to feed me. Almost always, I’m at the Centerville Cafe. I’ve been doing this for more than 10 years.

There are reasons: I’m a bachelor; I live on my own; I work on my own. That doesn’t lend itself to a lot of social interaction. So I find great value in getting out of the house and beginning the day with other people. You never know whom you’ll run into, or what opportunity that meeting might create. If you go to the same place for long enough, they’ll be friends there every morning—in a way, it’s a family. And let’s face it, when I open my refrigerator door and look inside to find that my salad greens are white and my cheese is green, I know this is a much better way to start my day.

I love my mainstay in Centreville—did I mention that it’s dog friendly? But there are a few other little spots that I’ve become rather fond of. Down in Hockessin, there’s Quinn’s, a friendly, homey place with great pancakes and a fairly expansive menu. While it doesn’t have a classic counter, the servers are friendly and fast.

On Sundays, I’ve taken to going to Fran’s in Kennett Square. I always order a Kennett mushroom omelet (a little wet with those amazing grits), rye toast and coffee—lots of coffee. It’s another homey place that isn’t fancy—cash only. And you never know whom you’ll run into at the counter. I’ve had a few marvelous chance conversations with Damon Sinclair of Hunt Cup Productions.

As fall approaches, I like to head out into the Chester County countryside to follow hounds. For many years, I passed this diner on the right side of Route 41 near the little village of Chatham. I wondered how you could get more than one or two people into that tiny little building. And I also couldn’t quite understand how a kitchen could fit into this box on the side of a busy road.

One day, I stopped long enough to actually go into the Chatham Diner. It’s a marvelous little place with a small grill that produces outstanding cinnamon-raisin French toast—better than any sticky bun I’ve had. Most of what they do is locally sourced and as fresh as can be.

Another little quizzical place is the Creekside Diner in Kennett Square with little statues of chickens surrounding the front door. On the suggestion of a counter inhabitant, I went for the pancakes, loaded with blueberries. Coffee was again plentiful.

In a way, perhaps, I’m following in the footsteps of Bob Herbert, an old mentor from my News Journal days. He always told me that he could find at least one or two stories every week by sitting at the counter at Jimmy’s diner. Bobby was right. As a journalist, there’s nothing better than getting out there. 

All I have to do is take three steps out my door.