It is rare that I explicitly mention the time I am at a restaurant. Food usually tastes the same whether eaten at noon or at 8 in the evening, but there are occasions where timing matters.
It is 12:20 a.m. I am writing this at Travis Coffee Shop.
Mind you it has snowed about 5 inches tonight. I'm here for a specific purpose, but the other eight guys (and they are all men aside from the waitress) are regulars.
The waitress knows their orders. She calls each of them “hon” or “sweetie.”
Such is the charm of Travis.
Travis Coffee Shop has been a St. Clair Shores institution for close to 45 years. It should be noted that St. Clair Shores has two, 24-7 diners a mile away from each other–Travis and Linda's Place. Years ago, there were three 24-7 diners within a 2-mile radius (R.I.P. Monty's Cafe).
Twenty-four-hour diners are a tricky business. Rather than prepping for one dinner service or a lunch rush, you have to be prepared around the clock. Instead of coming in early to prep while the restaurant is closed, you prep throughout the day. Serving an entire menu all day long is not easy.
Just don't ask for a burger with pancakes instead of a hamburger bun, that's fusion even I can't get behind.
Simply put, chili fries are amazing. There is something about crispy-fried potatoes and hearty beefy chili coming together that creates wonderful culinary music. There's nothing particularly special about Travis' chili, or their fries. The chili, while thick, is more sweet than smoky. Fries are typical food service fries–greasy and crispy one minute, greasier and soggy the next. Eat them fast or you'll be sorry.
Travis burgers are infamous around St. Clair Shores. Affectionately referred to as sliders or gut bombs, if you have lived in St. Clair Shores for any number of years, you have probably had your moment with one of these lovelies.
Sliders, as you probably know, are little hamburgers usually made with a one-eighth of a pound beef patty that has grilled onions pressed into it. At Travis, you have choices. A hamburger is a slider, while a double is two patties pressed together and put on a larger bun. Finally Mr. 5 X 5 is five patties pressed together, weighing in at just over a half a pound.
For some reason, I thought ordering two double cheeseburgers was a good idea. One is enough for most reasonable humans, especially with those chili fries on the side.
When ordering a burger at Travis, you are not asked, "How would you like that cooked?" Every burger is cooked to well done.
You are asked if you would like onions. Say yes.
A pile of sweet white onion is pressed into the patty while cooking, so you get this layer of caramelized, slightly burnt, oniony goodness cooked into the burger.
Spring for a slice of American cheese, too. Burgers are all about layers of flavor. Cheese, onions, and pickles on top of that burger are a wickedly delicious combination.
Wendy's Frosty has nothing on Travis' chocolate milkshake. These aren't hand-made milkshakes. Machine-made (a similarity to the Frosty), but still it will satisfy a milkshake craving. Incredibly thick, with a sweet milk chocolate flavor, this "milkshake" cannot be drunk through a straw. You need a spoon.
There are other items on the menu as well. Just as you would expect from a greasy spoon, the other food is, well, greasy. Big omelets stuffed with the usual omelet accoutrement, hash browns, bacon, sausage, etc. There is a Travis Omelette that is stuffed with hamburger patties, onion, peppers, and cheese—if that isn't post-bar night food, I don't know what is.
By no means is a Travis burger the best you will ever eat, but when you walk out of Shores Inn at 2 a.m. feeling good and hungry, it's the place to go.
Besides, the Travis ambiance must be experienced at least once, especially if you are a Shorian.