TILTON, N.H. (Jan. 5, 2012) — In the best tradition of diner politics, the Tilt’n Diner sees candidates come and go.
Kyoko Cate, a waitress at the Tilt’n Diner, judges candidates by where they go in the diner. “My son, who’s also a cook here, always pays attention to when they come in and where they go first,” she said. A candidate’s willingness to walk right into the kitchen and shake hands with the staff, Cate said, demonstrates their acknowledgement that everyone matters.
On Thursday, the Tilt’n was rocking with locals and Republican hopeful Rick Santorum, who had just finished in second place in the Iowa caucuses. Some of the locals came without knowing Santorum was the daily special. Others patiently timed their lunch plans to have an up-close and personal look at Santorum.
Valarie Broudlidakis, 56, who is unaffiliated with a political party, had come from Manchester with her sisters to shop at the Tanger Outlets just across the street. They decided to stop in to Tilt’n Diner to grab a bite to eat.
“We had no idea that Santorum would be here but it’s a happy surprise,” Broudlidakis said.
The opportunity to see a candidate up close and personal, she said, was a thrilling experience and a good reminder for her to take a hard look at the potential candidates. “I’m definitely going to do some research before voting, especially given the caucus results in Iowa,” she said.
Her sisters, Allison Simon of Haverhill, Mass., and Darlene DiGaetano of North Andover, Mass., are both Democrats. But, they said, they are open to hearing what the Republican candidates have to say and were excited to meet a presidential hopeful.
In 2008 , Simon said, she was undecided about then-candidate Barack Obama. Now she’s not sure she’ll vote for him again. “I’m not sure what I’ll do,” Simon said.
Tom Barrett and Tom Anastasia, both of Gilford, N.H., are regulars at the Tilt’n. On Thursday, they also brought their friend Charles J. Gernazian of Atlanta, Ga. They wanted to treat Gernazian to the daily special.
“We’ve come here many times for breakfast or lunch,” said Barrett. “But today we’re here really to see Santorum.” He added, “The atmosphere is great because it allows everyday people the chance to talk currents events with a potential presidential candidate. You can’t do it like this anywhere else.”
Visitor Grenazian agreed. “And you can’t forget that it combines two of my favorite things — eating and politics.”