Donuts Burgers Sandwiches

3 Star Coffee Shop on 86th Street and Columbus is at least as old as the era in which three stars defined the apex of Upper West Side dining experiences.

The lower line on the white plastic storefront sign promises “Donuts Burgers Sandwiches,” with unnecessary white space between the letters and each word.  When Teak and I ate there a few weeks ago—its fried sirloin fragrance and blue-purple smoke spewing from a vent to the street drawing me in—the one waiter for all ten tables wore a black silk vest over a slightly frayed white shirt, its collar dirtied but not so much that I felt it affected the food. 1980s rock hits played on the radio, a 14-inch-wide black-and-silver “boom box” with dented speakers at either end that sat on a shelf near the kitchen so the cook could hear it, too. The menu offered omelettes, burgers, and sandwiches of every variety, probably using the same eight or so ingredients in varying combinations. All day, every day. The facade of the corner restaurant is a faux brick flagstone pattern, with large picture windows facing Columbus and also 86th Street.

Teak ate his burger, fries and pickle. As he chewed, his dimples deepened and I thought he might be humming. He smiled when he saw that I was watching him, pieces of meat and bun stuck between his front teeth.