Stage Coach- Grease, Grits, and Cultural Exchange


Sometimes brunch won’t do. Some mornings, the thought of mimosas and purse dogs and hungover waiters sours the stomach more than last night’s libations. Some mornings, breakfast is the only solution for what ails you. And a very specific breakfast at that, one with potatoes, biscuits, eggs, and all the other fixin’s. But, every now and then, you need to go farther. You need a gut bomb that feels like it was especially prepared by Paula Deen’s grandma, you know the one that thought the rotund racist was “too skinny” and kept inducing her to eat sticks of butter like they were popsicles. On those mornings, you go to the Stage Coach.

 Unprepossessing with its A-frame roof and 50-year old sign, the Stage Coach Restaurant offers the homiest of down-home cooking, the most comfortable of comfort food, the bombest of gut bombs. And, with its Florin Road location it also offer an intriguing intersection of white, black, Hispanic, and Asian customers who tend to mingle together in a common cause in a way usually reserved for houses of worship.

Here’s an example, my buddy Scatman Crothers (not his real name) and I ventured to Stage Coach last weekend and plowed through a couple of plates so loaded with the stuff that your dietician warns you about that they each came with a side of defibrillator. Scatman’s plate was a rare treat, pork scrapple, which for those of you who haven’t been to Philly lately is a pork and cornmeal meatloaf sliced and fried, fried grits with molasses, eggs, and toast. My plate, about the size of an upturned umbrella, contained fried trout, fried eggs, drop biscuits, and rice and gravy. Man, rice and gravy. It’s more than the sum of its parts. It’s a gorgeous bowl of happiness, and unexpected happiness at that. And where else can you get cornmeal coated, fried trout for breakfast? Just flat awesome.

Well, we were sitting there vacuuming up our vittles, when we were addressed by the trio of elderly Chinese folks sitting at the table next us. I never got their names, but let’s call them Jack, Janet, and Chrissy for the sake of ease. They were perplexed and fascinated by the grits. Whether in its more spoonable form or in the fried bricks that Stage Coach also offers, these folks could not figure out what it was they were eating. The conversation went something like this:

JANET: Excuse me. What is this? (Pointing a bowl of grits on table) Is this rice pudding?
SAC-EATS: It’s grits.
SAC-EATS: Grits. It’s made from corn.
JANET:(Something in Cantonese)
CHRISSY: Like soup?
SCATMAN: No, it’s hominy. You ever eat hominy? Like in posole?
(Blank looks from table)
SAC-EATS: It’s corn treated with lye or something, then chopped up.
(More Cantonese)
JACK: It’s interesting. Did you have the fish?
SAC-EATS: Sure did. Trout. Pretty yummy stuff.
JACK nods vigorously, then looks to JANET for confirmation. JANET ignores him.
JANET: You must eat here much?
SCATMAN: Nope, first time for me.
(JANET, looking surprised, says something in Cantonese to others. Then lengthy conversation ensues in which SCATMAN and SAC-EATS explain to JACK, JANET, and CHRISSY that this is not the only restaurant in the world that serves grits.)
SAC-EAT: But what did you think of the biscuit?
ALL: Great, very good, yummy, etc.
CHRISSY: But they only give me one. You get two. It must be because you’re big boy. That’s discrimination.
(Moment of awkward silence, then all laugh like crazy and say good-byes in two languages)

So, if you’re in that special kind of mood for a cultural and culinary overload, head on down to Stage Coach.

P.S.- There are also rumors of a gentleman calling himself the Gumbo Man dishing out gumbo from the ‘Coach’s parking lot on weekend evenings. I hear it’s great.

Stage Coach Restaurant- 4365 Florin Road. Food *** Service ** Atmosphere ****

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