Salina, Kansas! A way cooler town than you’d think. There’s this really amazing public art project on their old fashioned Main Street; as you stroll down Main Street, you pass sculpture after sculpture of all different kinds, fashioned out of everything from glass to wood to metal in every style from representative to incredibly abstract. There’s seriously around three to a block. On each side of the road! Who knew Salina was so into modern art? And the architecture there is really quite beautiful as well.
But enough about that. We’re in Salina for the food and you’ll find The Cozy Inn a block or two over from Main Street. The Cozy Inn opened in Salina in 1922 and it’s been in constant operation since then. Even the Great Depression couldn’t kill the Cozy, probably because the food there was so cheap. The menu consists entirely of “sliders,” miniature hamburgers so named, probably, because they’d be slapped on a wrapper and slid down the counter from cook to patron. The Cozy is just that, if by cozy we mean tiny. It’s a tiny, tiny little room with just a six stool counter. Stand up at the counter and you can almost touch the back wall and the grill at the same time. The restaurant also features something one rarely sees anymore: a walk-up window. But eat inside if you end up at the Cozy sometime; part of the experience is the all-permeating, sweet smell of grilled onions – tiny room, not a lot of ventilation, lots of onions.
And, honestly, it’s mainly the atmosphere that recommends this place. The sliders are fine (order at least three; that’ll give you a regular burger or a little more in quantity and at a buck apiece, it won’t break the bank). The burger has a delicious steamed quality; the bread is soft and the meat incredibly tender, if not as uniquely flavorful as I like. But stop in and belly up to the counter anyway, just for the down home experience, not unlike the one experienced seventy or eighty years ago by a patron of the Cozy. Midway through my meal, a local entered and proceeded to tell a joke to the cook – this was a good ol’ Midwestern boy, overalls, trucker hat, etc. When he finished the joke, he laughed louder than the cook, of course, and then he leaned over and slapped me on the back. Like he’d known me his whole life or something. And he didn’t even have to walk over; we were well within reach of each other. Well, that’s the Cozy. 3 stars.
tl;dr – endearing atmosphere of tiny hamburger joint is more enjoyable than the mini hamburgers themselves, but it’s so endearing it’s worth a stop anyway. 3 stars.