TUCSON – Frank and Francisco's used to be my favorite breakfast joint in Tucson, especially on Tuesday's, when the $4.50 special was two eggs, two sausage patties or bacon, a big serving of fried potatoes, and either a muffin, biscuit or toast. It and other restaurants are now shut down because of the coronavirus.
The coffee was the old-fashioned kind, served black in a mug with cream and sugar on the side, without the option of ruining the taste with chocolate, caramel, foamed milk, or flavors of marshmallow, pomegranate, pumpkin and stuff I can't pronounce. Bottles of Mexican hot sauce and a bottle of catsup were on each table, along with a stack of napkins.
The now-closed building is done in the architectural style of Early Barrio and is in a neighborhood that has seen better days. A cheesy plastic sign in front used to say, "For elegant dining, eat elsewhere." The tables, chairs, and dinnerware were second-hand and mismatched. The same with most of the customers.
The service surpassed the service at five-star hotels where I used to be gouged in my corporate days on an expense account. The waitress was friendly, funny, and down-to earth. If you took a sip of coffee, she'd be there in a flash to offer to top off your second-hand mug from a steaming glass pot. I liked to sit at a table where I could watch the fry cook multitask. As soon as he put an order on a plate, the waitress would whisk it to a table.
Places like this are what made Tucson special in spite of the city having a poverty rate twice the national average. Other cities also had places like Frank and Francisco's, but there were fewer and fewer of them as they were driven out of business by national chains—chains that are run by bean counters and techies, whose job description is to standardize everything, so that the food tastes like widgets, can be ordered via kiosk or smartphone, can be cooked and served by automatons, and is appealing to young hip people without taste buds or the judgment to see through the cliched and phony advertising about the big chains being green, diverse, and socially-conscious.
I'm getting sick to my stomach just thinking about the standardized fare and messaging.
I fear that places like Frank and Francisco's won't come back after the pandemic is over and the economy restarts—that they will be replaced by large chains that received Monopoly money from the Federal Reserve. For sure, government will grow in power and size after the pandemic is over, continuing a trend of the individual becoming smaller and smaller as big institutions become bigger and bigger.
Goodbye, Frank and Francisco. So long, diversity. Hello, sameness.