Hathaway’s Coffee Shop
441 Vine Street
M-F 6:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
Stepping into Hathaway’s is like stepping back in time: the waitresses still sport polyester mauve uniforms, there are steel-banded dinette tables, vinyl booths and a couple of U-shaped counters, and the food is classic diner.
Diners are usually a bit of a worry for vegetarians because they rely heavily on traditional American comfort foods like burgers ’n’ fries or meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy, and nearly everything is slapped together on a short-order grill. It’s that co-mingling of foods that defines the diner experience and bedevils the vegetarian who doesn’t want their grilled cheese sandwich combining juices with a sizzling burger or steak.
This tends to give vegetarians a bad name - we are seen as picky, fussy, complaining miscreants whenever we request that the grilled cheese be cooked separately from the burgers, or when we want to know whether or not lard is used in the deep-fryer. For this reason I am wary of visiting any place advertising “home-style cooking” or “diner food” because I know I’m going to have to ask questions, and I know the waitress’s eyes are going to narrow just a little when I do.
As with most coffee shop diners, Hathaway’s lunch menu relies heavily on burgers, fish and fries, but they do offer a couple of vegetarian options and cook them with the vegetarian in mind. Of course there is the ubiquitous grilled cheese sandwich, but Hathaway’s also offers a Garden Burger (grilled separately, natch) with lettuce and sliced tomato, an egg salad sandwich and a peanut butter & jelly sandwich on your choice of white, wheat or rye. It ain’t much, but in the diner world it’s better than nothing. And it’s cheap - you can easily get out of there for under ten bucks. Sandwiches are served with potato chips, except the Garden Burger, which comes with a fruit cup and a side of absolutely delicious coleslaw. Truth be told, I could probably eat my weight in that slaw – so light, so fresh, and so very, very tasty. Such a pity that they only give you a tablespoonful with your meal.
Another delicious specialty Hathaway’s serves is their Yogurt Salad. It’s concocted of cottage cheese, creamy yogurt, fruit, coconut, walnuts and raisins in an apricot dressing, served with a hot muffin. For something so healthy, it tastes quite decadent. Speaking of decadent, if you’ve saved room for dessert they offer a nice selection of home made pies, and their soda fountain menu sports malts, milkshakes, yogurt shakes and sundaes, all in typical diner fashion: designed to expand your waistline without breaking your wallet.
If you are an early riser, make a point of visiting Hathaway’s for breakfast, because that is when they truly shine. People come from far and wide to partake of their old-fashioned, small tread waffles, which are nothing like their bloated Belgian cousins served at IHOP, Denny’s and other diner-esque restaurants. There’s also French toast, pancakes, fruit platters and cheese omelets to tempt the veggie palate.
American diners are becoming a thing of the past, and even mainstays like Hathaway’s aren’t immune from makeovers. I was told today that Hathaway’s has been bought out and will be closing for a remodel after the first of the year. When I expressed dismay at the thought of Hathaway’s décor being revamped - it's so firmly entrenched in the early ’80’s that it’s surprising not to see Patrick Nagel prints adorning the walls - I was informed that the new owners were going for “a real retro look” and would be updating the menu.
If you’ve never been to this quaint little throwback in the Carew Tower and are hankering for a taste of the past, Hathaway’s is the place to go. Just try to get in there before they close the door on 1984.