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When you're tired of Denny's or some other chain, choose a joint. 'Joint' is slang for a local restaurant that makes no attempt at pretension. Food is not fancy, and serving hours may vary. No one hired an interior decorator. Joints are especially prized when service is availalble after bar closing time. The crowd is almost entirely local, and any ambiance is accidental.

Yet a good joint contains it's own ambiance, which is a product of it's clientele and decor. Joints are simply decorated, with functionality the entire point. Good taste is optional, with accidental kitsch a potential asset. But in going there you get a feeling for the local color, what the owner likes. A joint's decor is personal, and if a chain tries to do one, they do it badly. Decor is accidental. But everyone goes there. Working people college students, lawyers enjoying their first extramarital affair. The people watching is good. The people meeting is better, as your neighbor is someone you would never meet in your daily life.

Food is simple, and generally fried. Fast, tasty calories are the goal, at a good price. A pie case is nearly mandatory. All eat in dining is done on china which is generally well used and functional.

A joint must always be a friendly, welcoming place. They are more common still in small towns, but every urban community should contain several if you know where to look. Edward Hopper's most famous work The Nighthawks depicts a joint in action. They are a staple of Americana, and their uniqueness should encourage their survival in an era dominated by restaurant chains.