by Anne Jones
If you live in Northside you’ve driven by it thousands of times on your way downtown. “It looks kind of industrial; did it just change hands? I should stop there sometime…” you’ve said to yourself.
But Brooks Diner has been around for years, run by the same nice person, Kathy Deleguardia, and serving up exactly what you’d expect – basic comfort food in warm surroundings. And that’s the beauty part about it: you know exactly what to expect, nothing pretentiously innovative or annoying. There is nothing, as David Sedaris said when irritated at his overly-fused fare, “smothered in aspirin sauce”, no kale in the mac and cheese, nary a sunchoke on the catfish.
What you will find is extra tasty, homemade, and hearty meat sauce on the spaghetti, tender and tangy barbecue pork, a perfectly flat and buttery textbook grilled cheese straight out of a drug store lunch counter. It’s comfort food with no pretension, not your Waffle House comfort food, but your grandmother’s-house-for-Sunday-after-church comfort food. The mashed potatoes are real, the fried flounder is fresh, and the country-fried steak is perfectly browned. There is even a whole menu section centered around gravy – chipped beef or sausage gravy on toast or biscuits.
There are also enough sides to satisfy the pickiest pescatarian with a penchant for Cracker Barrel (that would be me). Beets, mac and cheese, butter beans, coleslaw, fried apples, mac and cheese, mac and cheese, collards, mac and cheese, green beans. Pick three for a hearty $6 lunch. Did I mention the mac and cheese? It’s just right. There’s also a tuna melt, catfish, salmon cake, fried flounder – it’s not all meat and potatoes.
The low prices are another big draw. There is nothing over $8.50 on the menu. The grilled cheese is $3.75, for god’s sake, and breakfast is available all day. That’s always a good sign. And while the space is a little big to be called cozy, it’s warm and welcoming. Last week there was a fresh tulip on every table.
So next time you drive by, go ahead and pull in. Eat breakfast on your way to work, or at noon on Sunday. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Monday – Friday 7-3; Saturday & Sunday 8-2
1600 Brook Road
Richmond, VA 23220