How did you girls get together?
BG: Bette Griddler here, leader of our singing waitress trio. You see, my folks used to run Ida’s Diner Theatre in Buffalo, which is where we all met. We were America’s first diner theater. Truth is, I’ve been workin’ in a diner since I was old enough to wash a gravy boat. After my parents retired and moved to Boca, they left the diner to me and I promoted Mabel to assistant manager and Pam to head hostess. After the diner was lost to a fire a few years back, I packed up the girls and we headed to the Big Apple for a chance at a new life right here in Hell’s Kitchen.
What qualities make the best diner?
PC: That’s an easy one. I’m Pam Cakes and I always say a great diner takes great food and even greater service. And the washroom’s gotta work. I learned that one the hard way …
MS: Mabel Syrup at your service. I think it’s all about going that extra mile. You can’t be afraid to put whipped cream on it at no extra charge, you know? Or if a customer wants his juice freshly squeezed, you can’t say no. Give them what they want and make it snappy. It’s like I always say: “I’m fast and easy.”
And what’s not so great about the great American diner?
BG: Calories. Lord, if these hips could talk, they’d tell you how much I love a grilled cheese sandwich, fried, and a strawberry milkshake.
PC: But the good news is that, here in Hell’s Kitchen, just about every diner has healthy, low-cal options on the menu.
MS: And if I may say so myself, I just love the whole wheat honey pancakes from Galaxy Diner.
But those customers …?
MS: I once caught a guy trying to look up my skirt and … come to think of it, we ended up going steady for a few weeks. Never mind. That one wasn’t so bad. But don’t get any ideas, I get to decide which boys come to the yard for my milkshake!
PC: A guy claimed he found crayons in his fries once. But that was the week I’d entered myself in that competitive coloring contest. I took second place.
BG: There was this time back at Ida’s where this guy thought he could sing all the parts in ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ better than we could. He proceeded to stand up on top of the counter and sing at the top of his lungs. You know what I did? As sure as I’m sitting here, I cut the music, grabbed that ol’ fossil off the counter, sat him back down and said: “Dad, one more peep and it’ll be Bye Bye for YOU, birdie!”
What’s on special?
BG: I wish some of the diners would do what we do and name their dishes. Take today’s specials at our restaurant, for example: we have the Tommy Tuna Melt, The Crucible-ogna Sandwich, the Bernadette Pita, or our brand-new burger, the Kristen Cheno-With Everything. Each of those come with Samuel French Fries, a Secret Garden Salad, or a side of Broccoli Les Mise-Rabbe. And, of course, our soup of the day is Yentl.
MS: I think we need more healthy foods, eh? I can see it now: a whole new section to the menu. We could call it “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Frying.”
PC: I’d like more copies of the kids’ menus, please. With extra crayons … connect the dots ain’t easy.
Where are your neighborhood go-to diners?
MS: I’m partial to the Galaxy Diner. Big menu, and big portions too. Not to mention it’s right on the corner of 9th Ave – 46th St, perfect for boy … I mean people … watching! Their grilled chicken portobello salad is just the bee’s knees.
BG: I’m a Westway Diner gal. Always have been. Clean, good, reliable service. And that challah bread French toast!
PC: I like getting cupcakes at Amy’s Bread. If you ask real nice, they’ll put extra sprinkles on.
MS: Pam, honey, that’s not a diner …
PC: I don’t see why not, I dine there!
BG: Girls, no need to argue. I think we can all agree that none of those places hold a candle to The Loose Caboose!
The Loose Caboose? We’re not familiar … is that a new diner in the neighborhood?
BG: Well, it is – but it only appears a few select nights of the year. And it just so happens to be right where The Laurie Beechman Theatre is.
MS: Exactly! You’ll have to come visit us there sometime. We’ll serve you tuna melts with a tune.
PC: And I know almost all the words.
Lastly ladies, how do you like your eggs in the morning?
BG: I like mine hard boiled.
PC: Sunny side up for me.
MS: And I’m over easy!
BG: Shocking …
The Hell’s Kitchenettes are an all-live singing drag queen trio created by character actors Michael LaMasa (Bette Griddler), James Mills (Pam Cakes), and local queen Jackie Cox (Mabel Syrup). They’ll be at the Laurie Beechman Theatre on November 3 and 4, then return with their new show, Christmas at the Loose Caboose, on November 30 and December 1, 2018
This story originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of W42ST magazine.