Spires - Tustin
It may or may not surprise you that I've never eaten at Spires. IHOP? Denny's? Plenty of times. But Spires? Not even once.
And I'm glad I waited until this afternoon to eat in one and not twenty years ago, because just like a time capsule, the more decades you let pass before you peer into it, the more interesting its contents become. Denny's and IHOPs may get updated with the times, but it would appear that Spires has been locked in amber since the era of disco.
I went to the one in Tustin and when I walked in, I was surrounded by a non-ironic lunch counter and crescent-shaped, pink Naugahyde booths, some of which were already cracked. Norman Rockwell prints hung on the wall.
But the best clue that things haven't changed much here? The customers. These were regulars who knew each other, knew the wait staff, and presumably ate the same meal every time they came, week after week. And came they did, one after another, inching slowly, with their canes and walkers. I'm not exaggerating here. Of the ten who people passed our booth, only two of them were able to walk unassisted. If gastropubs are for hipsters, diners like this are for hip-replacements.
Looking at the menu, I realized why there were more senior citizens here than at a Murder She Wrote convention: underneath every price was a lower one for seniors.
Yet even the regular rates were more than reasonable for the amount of food served. For $9.69, my lovely dining companion had the filet of sole, with which she chose a gravy-glopped mashed potato as a side and a bowl of starchy clam chowder for the soup.
For $8.99, I opted for the half fried chicken (that's four pieces of hen!) which also came with a soup and a mountain of French fries. Added to every platter were griddled vegetables in the form of zucchini and carrots.
The fish was better than expected--tender, milky and moist. The chicken could've been crispier with its skin. But the best part of the experience wasn't the food; it was the feeling that I stepped out of the DeLorean and into the movie Cocoon*.
13451 Newport Ave.
Tustin, CA 92780
*And yes, I do realize that by using that movie reference, I'm actually dating myself. I am, in fact, much closer to becoming a senior citizen than some of you reading who weren't even born when that film came out. But one day, when I'm inching my way into Spires with my walker, I now know that the Naugahyde booths will be soft and cushy.
LAST WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
People Issue 2016: Kristin Nguyen of Garlic & Chives
People Issue 2016: Paul Tran of Halal Guys
THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
Kitchen Republic - Huntington Beach