AskDefine | Define caff

Dictionary Definition

caff n : informal British term for a cafe

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Modification of café#English


  • a UK /kæf/ /k

Extensive Definition

Greasy spoon is a colloquial term used in Britain and North America for archetypal working class eateries. The name "greasy spoon" is used to imply a less than rigorous approach to hygiene and dishwashing, and appears to date from 1925.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, greasy spoons are generally called cafes, which in England is often colloquially referred to as a "caff". Not all cafés are greasy spoons, however.
The typical greasy spoon serves mainly fried or grilled food, such as fried eggs, bacon, black pudding, bubble and squeak, burgers, sausages, mushrooms and chips. These are often accompanied by baked beans, cooked tomatoes, and fried bread. Hot and cold sandwiches are also often available, the bacon or sausage butty being particularly popular. The main drink in British greasy spoons is usually tea; often the only coffee available will be instant. British greasy spoons will sometimes also offer bread and butter pudding, apple crumble and rhubarb crumble.
The greasy spoon was also the mainstay of British truck drivers who travelled the major trunk roads such as the A1 and the A6 prior to the opening of the motorways. These cafes were not only stops where the driver could eat but also made convenient meeting places where the trade unions could talk to their members. In 2001, a story broke in the UK press about how the European Union were making an attempt to ban the greasy spoon cafes, this turned out to be a hoax based on an EU report about eating habits of long distance drivers and their health.
In the United Kingdom, the traditional greasy spoon has been in decline due to the rise of fast food chains. However, they remain numerous all over the UK, especially in certain parts of London, Manchester, and many seaside towns.

United States

Many typical American greasy spoons focus on fried or grilled food, such as fried eggs, bacon, burgers, hot dogs, hash browns, waffles, pancakes, omelettes, deep fried chicken and sausages. These are often accompanied by baked beans, french fries, cole slaw, or toast. Soups and chili con carne are generally available. A full meal may be available for a special price, often called a "blue-plate special". A typical "blue plate special" might include a slice of meatloaf, mashed potatoes with gravy, a cooked green vegetable, and a dinner roll. Regional fare is often served. Coffee, iced tea and soft drinks are the typical beverages, and pie and ice cream are popular desserts.
Greasy spoons are regionally called diners in the Northeast, cafes elsewhere. Diners were originally prefabricated, and some were made to look like railroad dining cars. Diners are generally characterized by a casual atmosphere, a counter, and late operating hours.


Similar to their British and American counterparts the typical Canadian greasy spoon serves mainly fried or grilled food, such as fried eggs, bacon, burgers, hot dogs, hash browns, waffles, pancakes, omelettes, deep fried chicken and sausages. In Quebec, greasy spoons are known to serve regional specialties such as poutine, pizzaghetti, fêves au lard, and pâté chinois. The vast majority of a Canadian greasy spoon's business is during the morning hours.

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong a greasy spoon is called a cha chaan teng (literal translation: "tea restaurant"). The menu and setting are somewhat similar to British greasy spoons, probably due to Hong Kong being a former British colony. Normally the menu will include traditional Chinese dishes including fried or boiled noodles, or a plate of fried rice, while the "Western" menu includes French toast, spaghetti bolognese, full English breakfast (albeit Sinicized), a pork chop with spaghetti, grilled chicken club, etc. These choices are usually accompanied by a triangular piece of toast and a choice of coffee, tea, Horlicks and Ovaltine (for children), or a Hong Kong speciality called yuanyang (a mixture of milk, coffee and tea). Most cheese-based dishes are not served in Hong Kong greasy spoons, due to Chinese tastes.
Usually greasy spoon cafés are known as "Cafes", while traditional Chinese breakfast eateries are called "fried noodle stands". These eateries typically open early and close after lunch hour, though some are open until late at night. The cost of a meal usually ranges from ten to twenty-five Hong Kong dollars.


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