It’s the summer of 2013 and I’m standing in the hallway of the Double R Diner making eyes at David Lynch. He’s staring out at me from a photograph taken on a misty mountain not unlike the one that looms behind the town of Twin Peaks, his coiffed hair is brown, and he’s wearing a dark green raincoat weighted down with water. I’ve found myself in this hallway ogling this photograph because I had a simple desire: to visit the place where pies went to die.
Growing up in the evergreen heart of the Northwest during the ‘90s, Twin Peaks—Lynch’s surreal murder mystery with twisted American roots—possessed a cultural influence second only to the region’s largest export of the era: grunge. Although it wasn’t until adulthood that I sat through the show’s two seasons, I still possessed the smug, teenage air of being some kind of Twin Peaks authority based on birthplace alone.
Located on King County’s final frontier at the base of Mount Si, North Bend—a former logging town of under 7,000—served as the inspiration for many of the show’s fictional settings. Most famous among them being Twede’s Cafe (the Mar-T Cafe prior to 1998), which Lynch directly translated into the campy Double R Diner, the epicentre of the show’s universe where somehow pie and coffee looked cool as hell. It is in North Bend that I have arrived with my long-distance boyfriend, a rabid Twin Peaks enthusiast, who insisted we head east from Seattle to the place where zealots (boyfriend) and uninformed know-it-alls (me) alike could get a literal taste of Twin Peaks.
As we pulled off the highway, Twede’s blue-and-red neon sign stuck out like a sore, famous thumb in the middle of the unhurried town. “Just like the show!” we squealed. Throwing open the diner’s door, our excitement flatlined. After teenage arsonists gutted the original interior in 2000, little had been done to revive the sexy cabinlike décor that spawned the Double R. The iconic horseshoe counter, dull grey and hidden behind children’s drawings, was cluttered with knickknacks and lined with a fortress of Torani syrups. I couldn’t say for sure, but I was pretty positive that damn good coffee didn’t include a couple of pumps of vanilla. Drab white walls and the grimy checkered floor left little to look at but the tacky blue lacquer booths within, while overhead a toddler-sized plush Tweety dangled from the ceiling. There was nothing Lynchian about this knockoff Johnny Rockets, and I was nearly convinced that an online community of rabid Twin Peaks trolls had led us to Twede’s as a red herring. After seating ourselves, ten minutes passed with no sign of service and we simply returned to the car, empty-stomached and disillusioned.
I didn’t think of Twede’s again until last May when Showtime’s Twin Peaks reboot hit the air. For filming purposes, the network funded a Twede’s tune-up to rejuvenate its original splendour. Now a committed fan well-versed in the moody town’s occurrences, I was prepared to give the cafe a chance at redemption; my revisit a pilgrimage honouring Norma Jennings and her glossy cherry pie mecca. Mere weeks after this year’s recently-declared Twin Peaks Day, I drove to North Bend once more, wanting to expect Lynchian excellence, but as the car climbed into the mountains, my hopes were nowhere near as high as the pines that line the road.
As we arrived, Twede’s facelift was instantly noticeable. “RR-2-Go” is emblazoned in red lettering on the building’s blue exterior, announcing that the cafe had, at least visually, succumbed to its better half. Stepping inside, the restaurant’s walls are panelled with warmly toned wood that feels like a forested hug. A neat line of red stools is bolted beneath the restored counter and inoffensive tan booths have replaced the repulsive blue ones. On the walls hang Double R menus, leftover props, and a miniature alpine mural spans the length of the restaurant beneath them. As I sidle into a booth, a waitress approaches primed with a coffee mug that she promptly fills as she takes my order for a slice of cherry pie. I take an optimistic sip from the oversized mug bearing the RR stamp (on sale for $20!) and sigh, shaking my head at the countless times that this watery cup of coffee has been described as “damn fine” though in reality, it remains nowhere near deserving of Dale Cooper’s accolades.
When my slice arrives, it’s littered with chunky sugar crystals and coloured like cherry Kool-Aid, neatly set in a way that makes me nervous and causes my mouth to do whatever the opposite of water is. I give it a quick poke. It pokes right back, emitting a miniature gelatinous quake. I submerge my fork beneath the glazy filing and find the crust gives way too easily, probably underdone. I place a bite in my mouth and find myself completely unmoved, neither emotionally nor physically, by the taste of unremarkable cherry pie clearly sourced from a can.
The majority of [Twede's] visitors will prioritize fantasy over food, meaning the pie and coffee don’t need to be good because they will continue to be ordered regardless.
There are two ways real-life restaurants with on-screen identities can address their fame. They can either ignore it and stick to business as usual, or they can shamelessly embrace their newly imbued status. When opting to operate indifferent to influence, fans eager for fiction will find their buzz killed by a normalcy that denies them the fictitious place they desire to commune with. On the other hand, when restaurants become operational shrines to their celebritised selves, their authenticity disappears and is likely transformed into a mediocre museum dedicated to a place that never existed to begin with. In many ways, the revamped Twede’s falls in the latter camp. The majority of its visitors will prioritise fantasy over food, meaning the pie and coffee don’t need to be good because they will continue to be ordered regardless. And in fact, my waitress describes diners arriving wrapped in plastic, donning blonde wigs, or cradling logs—maybe I just wasn’t fan enough to fully commit.
On my way out I encounter Lynch’s photograph for the second time and wonder if he ever even intended for his TV creations to become tangible. Whatever the case, when Agent Dale Cooper proclaimed, “This must be where pies go when they die,” he wasn’t talking about Twede’s Cafe, he was rhapsodising about the Double R Diner. And while Twede’s could easily fulfill any hankering for greasy spoon fare, heed my warning: the pies are not what they seem.