Counter Culture Waitress Blog

More Coffee Hon?

The purpose of this blog is to build a community around my research on my project Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress. I want to spark a new appreciation for the hardworking women who race to our tables, quarrel with the cooks, and bring warmth and culture to the American roadside dining experience. The project consists of a traveling photo exhibition, a NPR radio documentary and a forthcoming book and film documentary.

I hit the road in 2001, traveling over 26,000 miles throughout the US. I  interviewed and photographed 59 waitresses in 43 cities. Each interview lasted 1-3 hours, all of which were transcribed, logged and indexed for the book and the exhibition. The waitresses are 50 and older and have worked in coffee shops or diners for at least 20 years and have a loyal following of regular customers.

I will post a new blog entry 2-3 times a week. Most of the writings will be the material that didn’t make it into my book. I hope you enjoy the posts and please SHARE YOUR STORIES ABOUT YOUR MOST MEMORABLE DINER MOMENTS!  To start the conversation, tell us about the last diner you visited.

Candacy A. Taylor


18 Comments so far
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My most memorable diner moment was at Louis’ Restaurant on Point Lobos in San Francisco. I came to eat there and visit with my waitress friend, Rachel Lelchuk, who worked there 50+ years before retiring at 82 due to health issues. When I arrived, I found a line out the door, but when I stepped in to leave my name on the list, I found half the tables empty. I asked why and soon discovered all these folks were waiting for one of Rachel’s tables!! How popular can one gal be??

Rachel was always so detail-oriented she could remember what you ordered 20 years ago, and her delightful personality made her definitely worth the wait! What a terrific waitress and wonderful friend!!!

Comment by Jeanie Gutierrez

Yes, Rachel was one of the most amazing waitresses I interviewed. She is so special and one of the most popular waitresses in my book. She will definitely be featured on the blog.

Comment by Candacy Taylor

Your work always elicits memories of good times spent in vinyl dives: sucking down hot cups of coffee brought by beehived goddesses, the tastes of fresh bacon and buttery toast, and the endless road unfolding ahead of me as the morning sun shines in my eyes.


Comment by Ken Pontac

I’m glad that the project brings you such vivid, beautiful memories. Tell me about the most memorable diner you’ve been to with older waitresses. I’m looking for new places to shoot my documentary.

Comment by Candacy Taylor

I am so glad that you finally started a blog. I love the whole concept of this project. I have linked your blog onto mine so I can follow your updates.

Comment by Cielo Gold

Thanks for the link! I hope you enjoy the posts and please feel free to ask for more/or less of what you want to see. More to come…..

Comment by Candacy Taylor

Love it. Diners are a very important part of my life, and I am very happy that you share the same passion for bringing the “Counter Culture” to life. Thanks for your dedication.

Comment by dylan connor

You are so welcome Dylan, and thank you for making such beautiful music, we need more of that in the world.

Comment by Candacy Taylor

Here in Lancaster, PA we have lots of wonderful diners to choose from for a great meal. My favorite is the Neptune Diner on Prince St. The food there is home made and if you crave something from your childhood they make it and it’s always the best comfort food ever!

Comment by Judith Lopez

I’m looking for new diners to include in my film documentary so I will check out the Neptune Diner when I’m on my book tour. I’ll be in Pennsylvania in October. Thanks!~

Comment by Candacy Taylor

I was a such a regular at the LA hipster hangout diner “Millie’s” (,0,5109618.venue) that when I didn’t show up for two days in a row, one of the waitresses, Nicole Panter, called me at home to make sure I wasn’t laying on my floor in a drug-induced coma (a statistical probability, this being in the early 80’s. Nicole wasn’t an older waitress, but the diner itself was a tribute to the actual Millie, a FABULOUS old gal who’s image is enshrined on the wall. Many an early morning was spent enjoying coffee and scrambles, and more than once I found myself helping out in the kitchen when the busboy was too hung over to make the morning call. Good times!

Comment by Ken Pontac

Great story, it’s amazing how waitresses remember to check up on their regulars. I have one story about a waitress Faye Blackwell who works at Trio’s in Washington D.C in Dupont Circle. She has become a surrogate mom to so many of her gay customers’ many of which have been ostracized by their families. Faye lost many of her regulars during the 80s when so many men were dying from AIDS. She has the ashes of one of her favorite regulars, Cody, on her mantle at home.

Comment by Candacy Taylor

I’m glad you started this website! I look forward to the book-when is it coming out??

Comment by Kelly

Thanks for your enthusiasm! The book will be coming out September 1st. I’ll be on my book tour from September through mid-November. I’ll keep you posted.

Comment by Candacy Taylor

I can’t wait to read the book! I am a graduate student in education/sociology with an emphasis on feminized work forces. Its so good to see work that has been undervalued and considered low status to be reported on with such grace and power. Any chance your book tour can bring you to the Bay Area? Our local independent bookstore, Bookshop Santa Cruz, features great work!!

Comment by Alisun Thompson

Hi Alisun,
Thanks for your interest in the project and for your kind words of support. I actually live in the Bay Area, I’ll mention Bookshop Santa Cruz to my publisher. Your degree sounds interesting. Please keep me posted about your work as well.
All best,

Comment by Candacy Taylor

Probably not what you’re looking for, but I’m a waitress in a diner. Yes, I’m 50. Worked for 26 years in a fine dining house, but when it closed down there were not many choices in our small town. The job put my two girls through college and paid the bills during a nasty divorce from a low-life husband. The regulars that come in are very spoiled and it’s taking me awhile to gain their “trust” since I’ve only been here a month. Others are just so spoiled it’s sickening. A lot of them are single men either widowed or divorced and they come in more for the company than the food. Most are so nice, but there’s always the exception! The bitch that comes in with her husband and daughter and DEMAND things left and right when she can see how busy we are. It’s hard getting used to being sat all at once when I’m so used to the fine dining restaurant experience where you take time with each customer. I’d love to find out where she works and be just as demanding at her work place! Waitress Revenge huh?

Comment by R.Kirby

Dear R. Kriby,
I know working for the public can be a nightmare. I waitressed for almost 10 years so I have witnessed a lot of bad behavior. So when I started interviewing waitresses for my book I thought I would hear more stories like yours. What’s amazing about the women I interviewed is that they didn’t seem to be affected by the jerks. Many have worked in the same place for over 20 years and said they “felt like they owned the place.” When I asked how they dealt with hostile customers, some said they just ignored them, while others said would wait until customer left and talk about how ridiculous they were to their well-behaved regulars. Hang in there, I hope it gets better for you at the diner.

Comment by Candacy Taylor

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