A greasy spoon is a British institution roughly analogous to an American diner—but without the free refills. They serve basic food consisting of fried breakfasts, meat pies and sandwiches. You also see dishes that you probably thought had died out in the 1950s, such as boiled bacon or liver and onions. You will not get salad at a greasy spoon, nor are these the kinds of places at which to ask if the sausages are organic. You may, however, get Greek or Italian food, as many are run by the families of immigrants who came to the UK after World War II.   Greasy spoons are predominantly working class institutions, but the best attract a wide cross-section of the community. Most customers just call them caffs—i.e. cafe without pronouncing the e. In some, the interiors are works of industrial art with deco touches and lashing of 50s formica. More often, though, the decor is merely functional, with plastic furniture that’s screwed to the floor. Though usually very friendly kinds of places, they are also highly efficient operations, able to provide huge quantities of food with the minimum of fuss. In a properly run caff, the food will arrive quickly, your eggs will always be perfectly cooked, and everything will be mouth-scaldingly hot.   Sadly, many of these places have closed in recent years, victims of rising rents and changing eating habits. Londoners of a certain age will get all misty-eyed if you mention places such as the New Piccadilly, Rossi's in Spitalfields and my own favorite, the Euston Sandwich bar. Nonetheless, the ones outlined below seem to be thriving.   Finally, some tips for getting the most out of your caff: Request crusty bread and you'll get the good stuff from the bakers rather than the industrial bread that comes out of a packet; ask for your bacon crisp, as many British people like a soggy rasher; and finally, drink tea. The coffee is usually terrible! —Henry Jeffreys

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