The White Spot diner is the culinary center of Charlottesville, VA, where I went to school. It's a little hole in the wall just before the railroad bridge on The Corner, downtown Charlottesville's row of shops and restaurants across from the University. For me, the draw of the White Spot was that you could walk in at any time of the day or night and see a cross-section of Charlottesville: the cop on the beat, the mailman, and local small businessmen and townies. And they always greeted us college students with a warm, inviting smile.

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The White Spot's gastronomic fare is centered around its famous grill, mostly burgers and fries and such. The Spot is known for the Gusburger (a cheeseburger with a fried egg on top) that was apparently invented years ago by a Dr. Gus, who would come over from the University of Virginia Hospital across the street and order one every day for lunch. Gusburgers have fueled college students for decades.

But the pièce de résistance was breakfast featuring Nat Pritchett's world-famous sausage gravy. Nat learned how to make sausage gravy in jail, which just added a cachet to the experience for us. Sausage gravy was always served over toast with scrambled or runny fried eggs on top. Yeah, I know, it's a wonder we survived to graduation. But there's something to be said for a place you can walk into at any time of the day or night, order breakfast, and have no one ask any questions.

Here's a quick trivia quiz for my old college buddies to see if they can clear away the cobwebs of their memories. Good luck!

  1. How many stools are there in the White Spot?
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  2. True or False: Counter jockey Fred Wood once shot himself in the leg while cleaning Pete Johnson's gutters.
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    Give yourself credit no matter how you answered. This is one of those stories that became true after years of retelling but Pete Johnson says it never actually happened. The story had Fred cleaning Pete's gutters to earn a few extra bucks with a pistol holstered to his side and more than a couple of beers in his belly. He fell off the ladder and the pistol discharged into his leg. This was fodder for jokes for weeks, as I recall. Of course, Fred was also rumored to have signed up for a second tour of duty in Vietnam because a buddy of his dared him to, but again, none of Fred's contemporaries ever remembers him being in Vietnam at all.

  3. What was Nat's full name?
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    Nathaniel Bacon Pritchett.

  4. True or False: John Taylor's lifelong dream was to own the White Spot.
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    False. Although there was a rumor that John and Quinn Shiflett did eventually buy the White Spot from Pete Johnson, I am told by John's sister-in-law that the deal never actually went through. John's lifelong dream was to become a professional rock-n-roll singer. According to buddies who saw him perform, he was very good and apparently he still knows how to rock the house at Durty Nellies after all these years.

  5. True or False: Nat went to jail for something he didn't do.
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    True. He didn't pay his alimony. Get it!?! This was Nat's classic joke which somehow never ceased to be funny to us.

  6. What was the White Spot's chicken-frying culinary cousin?
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    Wayside Chicken, known to most of us as "Wasted" Chicken because of the condition we were normally in when we ate there. Also owned by Pete Johnson.

  7. What is the name of the double-cheeseburger?
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    Henry's Heavy Burger.

  8. Who was the Spot's Nigerian-born cook?
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    Roosevelt, nicknamed "Rosie".

  9. What was Robert Henry's only job at the Spot?
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    To serve drinks and french fries to the clientele. His favorite phrase was "Keep your eyes on your fries."

  10. What was the best hour for sausage gravy?
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    According to Jim Wohlford, it was around 4:00AM, right after they cleaned the grills.

How to Score:

0 - 4 Perhaps you would be happier at the Boar's Head Inn, just down the road a ways ...
5 - 7 You may serve drinks and french fries at the end of the counter with Robert Henry
8 - 9 You have earned the right to fill in for Fred Wood behind the grill one very late night when he doesn't want to be there
10 You are either John Meyer or Jim Wohlford