Bored one day, I approached my wife with a plan. We would visit every diner in western Nassau County to find the best cheese omelet special.
“How can you critique a cheese omelet?” Victoria said. “It’s only a piece of cheese between a couple of eggs. Can’t we just sit and enjoy breakfast without you making everything a competition?”
“Listen,” I replied, “aren’t you tired of going to the same diner each week?
“Besides, all cheese omelets do not taste the same. It depends on the ingredients and preparation. We could also review the rest of the food, price and service. It’ll be fun.”
Having endured many of my antics through 54 years of marriage, she said, “OK, if it makes you happy.”
For kicks, I planned to grade the places A through F: A would be “excellent,” and F “avoid at all costs.” My ideal would be a breakfast omelet special with flavorful eggs, the right amount of cheese, crisp toast, moist home fries with pepper and onions, rich, hot coffee, and tomato juice with a lemon (and a plate for the lemon).
At one place, a diner in Freeport, the waitress was pleasant and served coffee quickly. I ordered the Swiss cheese omelet special. My wife, with no interest in my adventure, ordered pancakes.
I noticed first thing that there was no place to put my lemon slice after I squeezed it into my juice — annoying. Otherwise, the omelet tasted good. Fries were OK but needed more flavor (onions/peppers). Toast was mushy, coffee hot and good, service very good, parking sufficient, price reasonable ($9.75), juice and water in plastic glasses, but not glass. Rating B-.
We visited a couple of diners a month. At one place, something was missing: The breakfast specials included eggs, pancakes, French toast, waffles, egg sandwich with ham, bacon or sausage, but no cheese omelet.
“Excuse me, Miss,” I said to the waitress, “but there is no cheese omelet on the special breakfast menu.”
“If you want a cheese omelet, you will have to order it from the regular menu,” she said.
Alarmed, I said, “You mean I have to pay extra for the juice and coffee?”
She shifted her weight to one leg and said, “Yes, the coffee and juice are extra.”
“Just give me the two-egg special,” I said.
Amused, my wife said, “Why are you depriving yourself of a cheese omelet for a few bucks?”
“That’s not the point,” I said. “It’s outrageous for a diner not to have a cheese omelet on their breakfast special.” My comment in the notebook followed: No cheese omelet special. Rating D.
It took us more than a year to visit 40 diners, as far north as Northern Boulevard and as far south as Merrick Road. We confirmed my wife’s prediction: It’s hard to mess up a cheese omelet. Generally, they were made well and tasted great. But a few were served lukewarm, had too little cheese, were small, overcooked or too salty.
There were other minor annoyances: a busboy noisily pushing a dish cart with little concern for customers, a diner with a parking lot so small it took special skills to maneuver into a spot, and one that charged extra for Swiss cheese. I was pleased that a few diners supplied a plate and spoon with my tomato juice and lemon.
The ratings were generally above average. There were no perfect scores and no F’s. Prices for the cheese omelet special varied from $7.25 to $11.95. A higher price didn’t necessarily translate into better food or service.
Somewhat satisfied with the success of my cheese omelet challenge, I’m thinking of a new food adventure. But first, I will check my cholesterol.
Reader Jack Pepitone lives in West Hempstead.