OK, OK, I admit it.
When it came to the Terminal Restaurant at the corner of Moreland and Davisville roads, I judged a book by its cover. Until recently, I had never tried it because, well, there isn’t much about the exterior that tempts passers-by. It is a non-descript box of a place with brick exterior advertising “Breakfast All Day” and lottery tickets for sale.
All it took, though, was one visit to make me feel sorry that I hadn’t tried it sooner. If the crowd is any indication, it seems as if everyone in Willow Grove has known what an amazing place this is all along.
Like the sign says, they serve a full breakfast (as well as lunch, and early dinner), and on any given morning, the alluring scent of bacon wafts your way from the wrap-around parking lot. The aroma of delicious grease only intensifies as you enter the Terminal Restaurant’s single room and seat yourself.
If seats are available in this busy eatery, you may choose one of the three and a half booths—yes, there is a one-sided half booth at the far end of the room. Booth seats are lumpy, but the tables are large enough to accommodate six comfortably, except the half booth, which seats two, side by side.
Alternatively, you can take one of the many swivel stools at the serpentine counter, as the majority of people do when they come in alone.
Usually, when individuals congregate in a public place, like at the doctor’s office or on a commuter train, they give others a wide berth, perhaps giving a small courteous smile to the nearest stranger before choosing the seat furthest away and burying their head in some reading material.
Not at the Terminal Restaurant.
Each time we went, we noticed people repeatedly choosing stools right next to strangers and striking up a conversation. Customers came from all walks of life, all races, all sexes, all ages, and all chatting and joking like they were old friends.
We even got into the congeniality. At any other restaurant, we would have kept to ourselves while eating our meal. At the Terminal Restaurant, we found ourselves chatting with a man about sports, a woman about our kids, and an older couple about politics. It is quite a wonderful phenomenon.
The waitress was just as friendly as the patrons. Even after only two visits, she seemed to remember us and our dining preferences: chocolate milk in a to-go cup for our son, iced tea for my husband, coffee and water for me. The coffee arrived in the classic brown hourglass mug, rich and hot, and was served with a huge bowl of creamers, which stays on the table communally throughout the morning.
I ordered the chipped beef ($6.95), and it was thick and creamy, with a slight sweetness to the meaty sauce. It was served hot over toast, with crunchy hash brown potatoes on the side that seem to be made of real potato slices. This classic dish isn’t for everyone, and has a very unfortunate nickname, abbreviated on our breakfast bill as “S.O.S.,” but it is one of my absolute favorites, and the Terminal Restaurant made it very well.
My husband ordered two eggs, sunny side up, with white toast, and one of his favorites, scrapple ($5.70). The eggs were expertly cooked, with bright yokes runny when popped, while the crunchy crust of the scrapple gave way to the signature spicy meat mush. He chose grits instead of hash browns, and the large dollop was buttery and delicious even before adding the extra pat served on the side.
We ordered additional grits ($2.25) for our daughter, and although she liked them, she couldn’t even make a dent in the huge plateful we were brought. Our son did much better with his side of bacon ($2.75), which was greasy, crispy and smoky, just the way bacon should be. The large slab of cream cheese accompanying his bagel ($1.95) made it more like cream cheese with bagel than bagel with cream cheese, but he was happy to slather it all over, including his fingers and cheeks.
As we ate, single older men mingled with folks dressed for church, nurses in scrubs, families in sweats, and our crew, covered in cream cheese and grits. The food came out quickly, but everyone lingered over coffee refills dispensing sports statistics and parenting advice.
It is a true testament to our community that all social pretenses fall to the wayside at this diner. At the Terminal Restaurant, everyone is equal, everyone is friends, and everyone is well fed.
The Terminal Restaurant earns 3.5 out of 5 Whisks for classic breakfast food served in a social utopia.
Second Helping of Information:
Location – 13 E. Moreland Road, Willow Grove, PA 19090
Hours – Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Friday, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m; and Sunday, closed
Phone – 215-659-9922
Reservations – Not available
On the Kids Menu – No kids menu, no highchairs available, no changing table, but definitely family friendly