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Grubbin' with Wayne 

As far as comfort foods go, nothing beats grilled cheese. In the days before microwaves, it was one of the only foods you were allowed to "cook" as a little kid; that and maybe Kraft macaroni and cheese or Campbell's soup.

In our house, we'd take a couple slices of Wonder bread, thoroughly coat them in butter or a suitable butter-like spread, add two slices of Kraft American cheese and, after placing between two pieces of foil, iron the bejeesus out of them. The chemical changes that occur in organic matter when smashed by a steam-heated, scalded-bottomed, starch-spattered Black & Decker produce a level of homestyle goodness that can't be beat, except for, perhaps, Seor Mike's frozen burritos cooked on the manifold of the family sedan.

This is the kind of goodness I'm talking about when I mention Wayne's Kitchen. While the good folks there don't use irons to produce their grilled cheese sandwiches (due to pesky Health Department regulations, I'm sure), whatever they're doing back in Wayne's kitchen works out pretty damn well.

I found this place by accident when I made a creative yet wrong turn onto Sawatch Street, past the giant blue production facility that is Svedala Pumps, past the ironworks, past the power plant, past the beautiful lumber company building with it's high, arched windows. There, on the corner of Sawatch and Las Animas, is a stark white building; its only distinction from its industrial surroundings being the huge Coca-Cola sign proclaiming, "Wayne's Kitchen."

The place smells like your mom's house, or perhaps your grandma's, depending on which of them cooked with real butter. The walls are covered with knotty pine paneling, and there's a counter with a row of chrome and red vinyl stools in the center of the room. Classic rock plays from the kitchen where the radio is tuned to the good station that plays Moby Grape and obscure Zep. Somehow, through the grace of God, the western window has managed to hang onto its spectacular view of Pikes Peak and its southern companions without anything more obtrusive than low-lying railroad tracks getting in the way.

Other than that, there's not much in the way of decor. You don't need no stinking ambiance at Wayne's; you came to grub. And grub you shall.

You got your burgers and fries, your egg salad, your chili cheese burgers, your BLT's, and of course, grilled cheese -- basic greasy-spoon fare. The breakfast menu is just as all-American -- no frou-frou polenta and poached salmon here. Wayne's food is made to get you through a hard day of liftin' that bale and totin' that barge, not to make a "presentation."

If you're going to do it right, go for the specials. We went on a Thursday, Chicken Fried Chicken day. One of the standard side dishes is mashed potaters and gravy, and the plate came piled high, with green beans and a dinner roll on the side. After we had ordered, we heard our waitress go in back and drop that chicken into a vat of hot something. The sound of it splashing and crackling like the applause of a thousand Colonel Sanders induces a special kind of salivation, that "I'm about to coat my innards with tasty, spicy, greasy, moist, crunchy goodness" drool of antici... pation. You know it's not good for you, but that makes it so much better. Naughty drool.

I'm not going to say that Wayne's is the world's premier greasy spoon, but it might be the best one in town. It's quiet and off the beaten path, and the people are friendly. The food is exactly as it should be, and it won't put a dent in your billfold. And, those who no longer own irons due to the modern world of wrinkle-free apparel have a place to go to capture a little bit of that innocent cheesy goodness.

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