Friday, August 17, 2012

munching locally

I just ate at a recently opened local diner located not two minutes from where I live. The diner's location, despite being prime real estate, seems cursed: the diner is the third restaurant to appear in that same spot in the two years I've lived in this one-whore's town. The two previous restaurants were both Italian. The one that closed sometime in 2011 was awful: I went there once to eat, and was served below-par fettuccine and insultingly bad bruschetta. What drove the dagger in deeper was the fact that the proprietor of that place was herself Italian. Scandaloso! She should have known better. I never went to the Italian joint that replaced it; that restaurant lasted only a few months, then went under. I can only assume the exasperated townies had had enough of sit-down Italian-American food. They'll stick to their pizzerias, thanks.

Now comes this diner. I decided to risk a visit, not knowing what to expect. Overall, my experience was positive despite two major gaffes: (1) my plastic soda cup smelled funny, which made drinking the soda a strange and not-quite-pleasant experience, and (2) my main course came out of the kitchen a couple minutes before my appetizer.

But the service was cheerful and perky, I was seated as soon as I walked in, and the lag time between order placement and food running was minimal (despite the botched sequence). For an appetizer, I had ordered the chicken quesadilla. What came out was modest but filling; the chicken was chunky and juicy-- no skimping on quantity. The salsa and sour cream were boilerplate, served in tiny plastic cafeteria cups about the size of a small shot glass. The chicken had a decent grilled flavor to it, but the herbs and spices weren't all that memorable. My main course was a Reuben. It came out looking as small as a midget panini, and like some other inferior Reubens I've eaten, the bottom slice of bread began to get soggy within minutes because of the sauerkraut (the now-defunct 55's, in Haymarket, made a kick-ass Reuben with thick slices of buttery, buttery toast-- glorious enough to make me forgive them for not using rye bread). The plate held plenty of French fries, and also sported a laughably small plastic cup of cole slaw-- about a tablespoon's worth.

But the taste of both dishes was diner-worthy, so I decided to stay for dessert. I asked the waitress for her recommendation: "Cheesecake!" she chirped. I ordered the cheesecake with strawberry sauce topping, and it wasn't half bad. The cheesecake itself had a delicate, almost flan-like texture, and the sauce, which appeared canned, proved to be redolent of berries-- much better than it looked.

The appetizer/entrée mixup notwithstanding, I think I might try this diner again sometime. The service is cheerful and attentive; the savory dishes aren't spectacular but are pretty tasty; the dessert is small but surprisingly good. In all, I'd give the experience a thumbs-up, especially since I wasn't expecting anything more exciting than small-town diner food.



Bratfink said...

You know, when I was traveling for a store I worked for and helping to open other stores, I once decided to try eating at a restaurant attached to the local bowling alley.

The food was so fantastic that I went back there several times, something I rarely did while on the road.

Their French silk pie was to DIE for!

And their prices fit my budget.

The help was friendly, too.

I have since recommended that place to family who live nearby.

My experience is that the out-of-the-way places can beat the hell out of the well known places.

Chit! Now I'm all hungry!

Jason said...

I recently had the best Reuben I have ever tried. It looked like the sandwich chef chopped the cheese and beef, and then cooked them together.

I would be pretty skeptical of a Reuben that was made with something besides rye bread.