Fast food has a bad name because most places that serve it are insipid and the food is all the same. The Yankee Doodle Coffee Shop on Elm Street in New Haven is a good place to restore your faith in short-order cookery and cheap eats.
Open from 6:30 in the morning to 2:30 in the afternoon, the Yankee Doodle consists of a 12-stool counter in a skinny cafe that is truly a hole in the wall. Its sign, hanging over the sidewalk, depicts a white-uniformed waiter rushing to deliver food, posed in the same big-foot-forward "Keep on Truckin' " stance popularized in R. Crumb's underground comics in the '60s.At mealtime, it is likely you will arrive and find all the stools occupied. Don't be discouraged. Service is lightning-fast, and most people don't come here to linger. Above the work area, where signs for the various house specialties are posted, is a series of signs in the poetical Burma Shave genre that address the problem of a full house:
No seats? In a hurry? Thinking of going elsewhere?
By the time you decide . . .
You can wait one minute and have . . .
Better food, faster service, for less money . . .
By dining at the Doodle.
Prices are ridiculously low. Breakfast of eggs and toast is 85 cents; an omelet is just over $2. The most deluxe sandwich in the house - a Dandy Doodle Double Double cheeseburger, on a hard roll with lettuce and tomato, onions and bacon - is less than $3. In addition to sandwiches, the Doodle (as its friends call it) offers a nice selection of lonely guy cuisine, in the form of individual canned soup and stew for one, as well as individually wrapped sets of crackers and cheese and Oreo cookies.
Twenty years ago, when we first dined at the Doodle, we were seduced by the small enthusiastic sign behind the counter that advertises the Yankee Doodle Pig in a Blanket. After describing the ingredients - a frankfurter, melted cheese, bacon and barbecue sauce - the sign concludes with an exclamation: YOU WILL HAVE MORE! Sure enough, we did; and we still do, any time we hit a counter stool at the Doodle with a hankering for a good and greasy wiener.
Yankee Doodle Coffee Shop, 260 Elm St., New Haven, CT 06511; (203) 865-1074.
Yankee Doodle Pig in a Blanket
1 hot dog of choice (pork and beef combination preferred)
1 1-ounce slice American or Velveeta cheese, torn into strips
1 strip bacon
1 tablespoon butter
1 hot dog bun
1 tablespoon piccalilli or onion relish
Slit hot dog lengthwise deep enough so you can stuff in the cheese. Wrap the hot dog with bacon, using a couple of toothpicks if necessary to keep the bacon firmly around the frank.
Melt butter in skillet or on griddle over medium heat. Fry bacon-wrapped hot dog, keeping the cheese crevice pointing up as much as possible until bacon is crisp all around. When dog is nearly done, toast bun alongside it on the grill. Serve with piccalilli as a condiment.