Yesterday I made a distressing discovery. I was walking home from the bus terminal and passed by that most classic and revered greasy spoon: Keegans on 109th. To my huge surprise, the place was shut down. Windows papered. Big dumpster out front. Part of the famously pale red Keegan’s sign was missing. By god, what has happened? They could be simply renovating. The sign on the door states that “Keegans in closed until further notice.” Yet another sign on the papered-over door, placed there by a patron, proclaims Keegan’s the “home of the revolution”. For some people in the Old Scona or Garneau neighbourhoods, Keegan’s was, if not the birthplace of a revolution, something of an institution. The questionable cleanliness of its dining room and suspect quality of its food only added to its legend. Taking breakfast at Keegan’s was akin to attending church. Everyone confessed the previous night’s sins over greasy omelettes and holier than holy waffles. Keegan’s bacon was a greasy, pathetically curled mystery that had the lingering taste of whatever was on the grill before. Their hasbrowns seemed to change on a weekly basis, ebbing and flowing with the whim of whoever was on the grill that day. The food was…kind of good, I guess. As far as dives go Keegan’s was a fucking gem.
My brother and I spent many a Saturday morning in that place. It was our Saturday AM ritual for a few years before we decided, for health reasons, to not eat there any more. We got to know the waitresses, and we were given preferential treatment. We never had to wait long for anything, and they always took a few minutes to chat with us. The older one made a big fuss when I cut my hair from shoulder length to buzz cut. They missed us when we were in Europe for a month last year. We got them a Christmas card. They knew what we ordered for drinks and brought them to our table without asking. It sounds silly and trite, but we felt loved there.
Omelette atrocities. Delicious BBQ bacon burgers. Day-old hasbrowns served with vigour. Melt-in-your mouth French Toast. Highly questionable lasagna that bore a strong resemblance to those frozen tray lasagnas that you can buy for three dollars at Safeway. Waitresses that were just a little rough around the edges. Cooks that looked like criminals. Coffee that tasted like a little slice of heaven. An unpretentious, real place to eat.
Keegan’s on 109th, you will be missed.
StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.
The city is Edmonton. It's a subject, not a passion. E-Town is almost universally derided by outsiders as an unlivable tundra wasteland populated by oil-hungry redneck conservatives who despise the arts. All of that is true. But it's not the whole story. There is beauty here. Dusty snowfalls. Brilliant summers. A stunning river valley. A diverse arts community that flourishes. It's a place that inspires a gray relationship - not all good, not all shitty. For that reason alone it is lovable, for what is life but a grayscale?