Whenever I walk into Cafe Manhattan, I have the feeling that Fonzi and Richie might be sitting in the next booth. The Clayton diner, that’s been around since 1989, is a virtual museum of yesteryear, well, at least the fifties. Its jukebox, soda fountain, vinyl-covered seats and walls lined with Coke and Elvis memorabilia take me back to my teen years.
The sounds and menu remind me of the Hi Ho Club near my high school, where kids hung out after a grueling day of study, drinking Cokes and smoking Lucky Strikes. My mother forbade my going into such a place, possibly because the smoke was so thick you could cut it with a knife, so my memories are few—but vivid.
On my recent visit to Cafe Manhattan, I passed up the classic pizza, burgers, fries, and shakes and went with the tuna sandwich on whole wheat with tomato, avocado slices, sprouts and a side of cottage cheese. My friend had the spinach salad. When ordering, you can be as bold or as self-controlled as you like. The menu is that extensive.
For nostalgia buffs and foodies, this place is a blast out of the past. The pleasant service and classic diner fare make for a stroll down memory lane. If you feel like it, go hog wild and indulge in an old-fashion chocolate milk shake.
(Bonus points if you remember that two, well-respected gentlemen, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson were our presidential candidates in the 50s and the new Swanson Frozen Dinners were the culinary rage. How times have changed.)
Cafe Manhattan, 505 S. Hanley, Clayton. Open: 7 days a week, 11a-10p, because you never know when a wave of nostalgia will sweep over you.