Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wheeler's—where everybody knows your name

This morning I went to one of my dad's favorite hangout spots, Wheeler's. It's a pharmacy that has an old school diner in the back—it's the best. I went there often as a kid to load up on candy, buy NKOTB trading cards or get a burger and a chocolate shake with my dad. So I went there this morning for breakfast by myself (Liza was still sleeping, naturally) just to feel close to my dad, and to take a moment to remember him.

It doesn't look like much (partly because it was gloomy out and the camera fairy has not paid me a visit yet!), but the memories I have there are priceless. It's places like Wheeler's that make me feel happy that I grew up in a small city. Everybody really does know your name, and the charm is unlike anything else you can experience most places—especially New York.

My mom gave me instructions on where to sit—apparently it matters depending on the kind of dining experience you want. She said that the guys to the left are the "sharp shooters" who are always cracking jokes and talking about UK basketball (2,000 wins Woo Hoo!). Where did Dad sit? I asked. To the right, where it is quieter, she said. So that's where I sat. I still got an earful though. They talked about Christmas plans and grandchildren, but mostly basketball. And I overheard one of them say, "Hey Harvey, come sit next to me so I don't have to look atcha!" God, I love old men.

I ordered the stack of three large pancakes and ate them with zero guilt. They could totally rival the pancakes at even the fanciest brunch places in New York—I couldn't believe how light and fluffy they were! I'm sure the mix is nothing special, but there must be something the waitresses do to make them that way. Most of the waitresses have been working there since before I got a training bra, so I doubt they'll share any secrets with me. Another amazing thing is that they cook the food themselves and serve it! And, it's insanely fast.

I've always thought this sign was so cute: "Smile and have friends, frown and have wrinkles." And look at that milkshake machine—that is some old school shit right therrre.

Does anyone else have a favorite hangout spot at home? What makes it special?


  1. I actually never went to Wheelers in the 6 years I lived in Lexington. The is a drug store near the Opera House I would go to when I was in the Nutcracker - they had amazing Pimento Cheese. In Athens, which is where my parents live now, there is a diner at Add Drug that has a lunch counter - it is where all the KAs and SAEs would eat when they were hungover...and we went there a few times in law school, too.
    I enjoy going to Athens during the Spring semester (when it is quiet) and sit in a coffee shop/ craft beer bar and read. It is so peaceful...and cheap.
    Glad you got the pancakes - they call it comfort food for a reason.


  2. Wheelers!!! Yum! Their milkshakes are amazing!

    Ellen, have a wonderful time at home and tell your family hi! Merry Christmas!

  3. What a great post. I love that you went back and kept everything true to your Dad. I bet he'd love that. I am from small-town roots, too. Most of our childhood places are gone or changed, but we do have a diner with a similar feel that has a burger, fries and milkshake for $5 and it is the BEST!

    Merry Christmas!

  4. Omg, Shannon, you missed out!! The next time you are in Lexington (the 20th high school reunion, perhaps?) you MUST go. It's quite an experience.

    Merry Christmas, Lalla and Twentyfifth!!

  5. I smoked my first cigarette out back of Wheelers and every time I drive by with my Mom she reminds me.. Best burgers ever too and crinkle cut fries..

  6. I have the best memories of Wheelers! it was the farthest mom would let my brother and I ride our bikes...we had an account there (which I though was beyond cool) and Hampton and I would stock up on candy, then tell the old lady at the front counter to "put it on our account", sounding what we thought was soooo adult. my grandfather and I used to walk there on weekend for tuna sandwiches...thanks for the reminder!

  7. That place looks awesomely delicious.