“Drive in hungry – drive out full.”
[UPDATE: Goody-Boy has been renovated and is under new management.]
Michael’s Goody Boy Drive-In
1144 North High St.
Columbus, OH 43201
Open 7 days a week
Date of Visit: Friday, November 30, 9:00 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: Okay… I’ve had my eye on this place ever since Beth and I first moved to Columbus. I have a penchant for diners and small eateries… they always show off the local color and very rarely are they corporate chains. There’s something universal about them. So I’ve been gunning (in the mildest way possible) to eat here since, oh, late 2002. Beth has successfully resisted, and with good reason. When we first moved to Columbus, this place did look like a rat-hole… dirty, suspicious clientèle, run-down… much like the White Castle across the street.
But in recent years the owners have spruced the place up – as much as you can with a diner. They turned part of their parking lot along High Street into an outdoor patio. They repainted the sign and fixed the burnt-out lights. Now, it survives as a fully armed and operational old school, classic diner. Seriously, it’s a blast from the past (although not mine… someone else’s).
I mean, look at the top picture. And the layout of the building. Once upon a time, people drove up to this restaurant (hence the name “drive-in,” I’m led to believe) and waitresses roller-skated out to customers, serving burgers, fries, and milkshakes. The neighborhood has gone through a roll of changes, good and bad, since then, but Michael’s has survived and kept its Americana charm.
ATMOSPHERE: The inside reflects this, too. I visited with Ryan and Karl, and we marveled at the small, informal feel to the place. There are two small islands of counters and stools. Just like at Jack & Benny’s, my legs barely fit underneath. As we sat and sipped our coffee, a steady crowd of regulars – neighborhood folks, construction workers, a woman with her small son and her mother – slipped in and out of the doors. One regular walked in and helped himself to coffee while John, the cook, whipped up his breakfast without even asking. One guy, on his way out, asked us if we knew if the Packers had won last night. While we ate, we conversed with the woman and her mother. Karl pointed out that, in such a small space, everyone can hear what you say. There are no booths to separate out the conversations. We were all in this together.
As for the decor… well, think diner. A low row of posters over the counter reveal the cook’s preference for the Detroit Redwings. A chalkboard in one corner announces the day’s specials (liver and onions, by the by). Stacks of newspapers sit on the counters. A small sign tells you the rules of the place: #1, John is always right. #2, if John is ever wrong, see rule #1. An old wooden register chimes when the servers ring up your bill. (And they do take credit cards, by the way.)
FOOD: Michael’s serves up simple diner food, freshly and lovingly prepared. I didn’t see the cook prepare everything, but I was impressed that the potatoes were not a formerly-frozen heap of hash browns, but thin slices of real potatoes, with skins still on. I saw a server walk into the kitchen carrying a plate of thick, raw bacon – not this thin frozen stuff. This is real food. No bells and whistles, yes, but still the real deal.
Karl and I had Lori’s Special (pictured above): 2 eggs, meat, homefries, toast, and coffee. It’s such a simple thing, but I never thought I would appreciate coffee being included in the meal. It makes things easier, and it’s so cheap! The price of this meal: $5. Awesome.
A note about the coffee: it was the expected diner coffee, served in thick-walled mugs and refilled constantly. But this was good brown. How good was it? I quote Karl in saying that it was the “Aristotelian ideal of brown.”
The rest of Michael’s small menu features breakfast and lunch items, and there’s something for everyone… omelets, steak and eggs, hotcakes, and various specialty combos. The lunch menu includes a range of sandwiches; Karl has had the Good Boy Burger, and declared it awesome.
Here’s a shot of Ryan and Karl’s breakfasts. Look at that pancake. We figured that it was fried in butter, or something like that. It’s the most perfect, golden delicious pancake you’ve ever seen? It tasted like a beautiful golden delicious pancake, too.
Our server (aka the only server there) was nice and sweet. She refilled our coffee regularly, took orders quickly, and generally made us feel welcome. All that, and she didn’t seem rushed. Many of the regulars seemed to know her. When I caught the cook’s eye, he gave me a friendly good morning. He, too, chatted with the regulars. As we left the restaurant, we saw two more guys in the back room, apparently prepping food (4 people to run a small place like that – I wonder why?). The guys wished us a good day and a God bless.
OVERALL: Karl, Ryan, and I were excited to find this inexpensive, charming eatery. I can’t believe I waited this long to go here. The food’s straight-up delicious, and it’s a look back in history at the way almost all restaurants used to be.