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Jitterbugs has diner feel but wins with ice cream

While we love its clean, nostalgic, diner-like appearance, this is no greasy spoon.

We visited Jitterbugs Ice Cream Cafe about 3 o’clock Saturday afternoon. We had just come from a whiskey tasting and needed some lunch, and I knew the place offered hot dogs and ice cream — the perfect thing for a hot summer day.

We place our order at 2:52 p.m., according to the receipt I placed in my pocket. For the four of us, we ordered, three “Hopped Up” chili dogs, complete with relish, mustard, ketchup, and onions on the first check. For the table, we ordered a dessert big enough to share — The Jitterbug Jive with three types of ice cream, hot fudge, pineapple and, of course, whipped cream with a cherry on top, and another Hopped Up dog for good measure, in case we got ravenous.

Before we ordered, we found table made to look like a 1957 Chevrolet Convertible. It is the centerpiece of the restaurant, designed to look like an all-American 1950s diner. We soon learned it that table was for members of a members-only club for restaurant regulars for which we do not belong.

We grabbed a seat at the table next to it, and then I walked up to the register to place our order.

The place was moderately busy when we arrived, with five people sitting at the lunch counter and three other parties of six, four, and two people sitting nearby. Most were waiting for their food to arrive.

And soon, so were we. As we watched our food prepared behind the counter, the chili dogs were pulled off a roller grill, and then placed into a microwave — with chili, cheese, bun and all.

Over the course of 17 minutes, each chilidog was delivered one by one to our table. Freshly nuked, each dog was piping hot, loaded with toppings, and tasty despite the microwaved bun.

Finally, the ice cream sundae was placed on the table. Our eyes big with excitement, all grabbed a spoon and scooped up the delicious ice cream. This place knows how to do ice cream well, with a variety of the scoopable, tasty treat.

We counted about four people working nfot only behind the counter taking orders and preparing food, but walking back and forth serving customers standing at a streetside walk-up window not visible from the dining room. There seemed to be a lack of a system in place to timely serve customers at the counter and the window.

The restaurant also offers a variety of deli sandwiches to include a turkey, ham, and provolone, grilled cheese, and chicken and tuna salad served with an option of bagged chips — not french fries — to go with them. Lovers of an old-fashioned fountain soda will be disappointed, as pop is sold only in small glass bottles.

We give Jitterbugs high marks for being a family-friendly establishment where we received smiling service, in a sparkling clean environment.

Jitterbugs opened about a month ago, and we think there’s plenty of time to improve the back-of-the-house efficiency, to cut back on the use of the microwaves to warm hot dogs, so the service and quality can match its charming front-of-the-house decor and delicious frozen treats.

Jitterbugs is located at 3125 Center Street in Downtown Manassas.

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