I was born in San Diego, but I spent most of my teenage years around the East County. You know when people tell you that California isn’t all great, and there are regions in the state full of cows, subtle prejudice, and the occasional meth lab? That’s the East County. A good place to raise a family, but not a good place to do anything remotely cultural or interesting.
That’s okay, the city of San Diego was only a 15-minute drive, and if you were like me you spent a lot of time going to random shows and beach parties along the endless expanse of coastline.
The only thing was once you drove back, and realized you were hungry, you were stuck with some pretty limited options. Any of you suburban kids can attest to the lack of dining options when you’re hanging in the sprawl; places just don’t stay up late enough to accommodate a nocturnal lifestyle. For me, and I’m sure for a lot of you, that meant Denny’s became our Lord and Savior.
Look, I love Denny’s. I know the food's not gourmet, but that’s exactly the point. Denny’s is a lawless wasteland where you can order a milkshake and breakfast without anybody looking at you weird. It’s easily the most nonjudgmental restaurant in the entire universe, and it is a place where I’ve felt legitimate salvation more than a couple times. If I’m being completely honest, going to Denny’s with my idiot friends after the show was even more fun than actually going to the show.
So to tribute my love affair with Denny’s, I’ve selected several standout Denny’s menu items, and picked an album that I think best represents each of their particular glories. Please accompany me in my worship.
Tilapia Ranchero: Common – 'Universal Mind Control'
The idea of Mexican-spiced Tilapia makes my skin feel all cold and clammy. Denny’s shouldn’t be serving fish, and they certainly shouldn’t be serving fish-fusion dishes. Come on Tilapia, just be yourself! It reminds me of that moment back in 2008 where Common, a rapper known for his consciousness and reliability, decided he wanted to make a terrible dance record that alienated almost everyone in the industry.
The Bacon Slamburger: Celtic Frost – 'Into The Pandemonium'
The Bacon Slamburger is essentially a burger piled with hash browns, bacon, and a fried egg that’s served to you around three in the morning. It is something so evil and goofy that words can barely describe it, much like the careers of Swiss black-metal lifers Celtic Frost. I don’t think there’s anything that quite feels like diving headfirst into pandemonium quite like Slamburger.
Brooklyn Spaghetti & Meatballs: The Strokes – 'Comedown Machine'
When you were 14, you might have thought the Denny's Brooklyn Spaghetti & Meatballs was incredibly authentic, much in the same way you might've thought 'Is This It' surmised exactly why New York was the coolest place in the universe. But then you get older, memories fade, and things don't seem as awesome as they used to be. Julian Casablancas is now 35 years old; if I asked him to show me around New York, I don't doubt we'd end up at Denny's.
T-Bone Steak & Eggs: Phosphorescent – 'To Willie'
When you see the words “T-Bone Steak” on a menu our hearts sink a little bit. “T-Bone” is the international symbol of “we can’t afford to serve you a real steak and you’re going to have to come to terms with that.” Phosphorescent’s Willie Nelson cover album 'To Willie' is defiantly gorgeous, but it doesn’t’ stop you from wanting to listen to actual Willie Nelson songs. The faint idea of actual beef, and the faint idea of actual country.
$4 All You Can Eat Pancakes: Jandek – Discography
Couple dimensions to this. One, Jandek is a mysterious Houston-based songwriter who’s never officially revealed his name, and has spent the last 40 years self-releasing inscrutable, aggressively atonal music and growing a steady cult. To me, there is nothing quite as mysterious, inscrutable, aggressively atonal, and cultish quite like $4 All You Can Eat Pancakes. I’m in awe of the pancakes’ breadth and ambition -- much like Jandek's -- but at the end of the day it’s just not for me.
Cali Jack Turkey Burger: Steve Miller Band – 'The Joker'
The Cali Jack Turkey Burger is about as classically California as the 'The Joker,' which was, of course, written and recorded by someone who was born in Milwaukee and grew up in Dallas.