Finding the Spot

Spot Diner, Sidney, Ohio

So we decided we were hungry.

Here’s an ode to the power of signage, okay? Because our gps indicated “food” with the usual knife-and-fork pictogram that could be a Wendy’s or a Bob Evans. Really, all I was hoping for was soup. But as we pulled off the I-75 heading south through Ohio, I spotted a tiny sign: Sidney Historical District, 1 mile.

Pointing in the opposite direction. Yes, Wendy and Bob beckoned. But not as shamelessly as a friggin’ HISTORICAL district.

We pulled a U-y (waving at Bob), and headed into Sidney, Ohio, pop. 21,229. It was one of 10 “All American” cities for the year 1964. Its courthouse, which takes up a full city block, has been named by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the “Great American Public Places”.

But we didn’t know any of this going into Sidney. It was a blip on the gps, a dot on the map. A place to perhaps find soup.

And did we.

It’s not often that you stumble upon a place like the Spot. As Charlie had said earlier in the day, about something completely different: “You don’t really go there so much as you end up there.”

The Spot’s drive-in menu

We came at it from behind–and saw that there was a DRIVE IN. An honest-to-god drive in. I hadn’t seen one of these in…I don’t know how long it’s been.

Inside, the place was great, the fries were…just the best. I had a pot roast sandwich. Aaron had chicken and dumpling soup (I opted for the pot roast because, well. Pot roast). But also, it was a restaurant aware of itself. It engaged enthusiastically with its own interpretation.

The Spot, Sidney ,Ohio

The imploring signs “Order a pie today!”–or what?

But the Spot isn’t content to mediate its history with anything less than a heroic gallery inside, filled with artistic interpretations of the vintage signage outside, but also, this:

Interpretive signage, the Spot. Sidney, Ohio

Oh, be still my interpreter’s heart. For, nestled gently under letters big enough to be imprecations (PIE, THICK MALTS), was a chaste sign, ably tilted for reading at both a standing and seated position.

George W fucking Bush.


I saw it before I went inside and, still desperately seeking soup, didn’t stop to read until after I was pot roasted. And you know what? He wasn’t even the FIRST sitting President to visit Sidney!

Wording like this drives me bonkers. Honestly. Who were the other two??? (I’ll save you the trouble: Reagan and Teddy. There. Now you know). But the beauteous thing W did was he ate at the Spot. They’ve named a burger after him (I went with pot roast, remember?). Kinda like how at the Moulin de Provence bakery in Ottawa they have Obama’s picture with the maple leaf cookie. Except that’s just a photo, and they didn’t name the cookie…well. You get the gist.

So. There you go. A happy accident, and the power of signage in the right place at the right time.

If by now you’re dying for even more Sidney Ohio goodness, chek-là : they made a documentary about the place for PBS a few years back. Here’s a LINK TO THE DOCUMENTARY.

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