All good things usually come from a booth in a diner.
Coming from the Northeast, diners were once a way of life for early morning workers and late night partiers. I worked at one, well occasionally (aka when I needed beer money and a free meal), in Providence Rhode Island where politicians, horse gamblers and college students flocked in for giant omelets, cheeseburger clubs and a hunk of some type of quadruple layered cake - all homemade and often prepared by skilled fast order cooks.
Now welcome the new diner, Metro Diner in Sarasota.
While the old fashioned coin record players may not be on the walls of each booth or the revolving pastry cases hunkered next to the entrance, this new style offers really, really good food at reasonable prices.
Founded in Jacksonville , Metro Diner opened about a month ago in Sarasota at the Westfield Southgate Mall, where restaurant row is happening on the corner of Siesta Drive and Tamiami Trail.
If three words describes the modernized diner, it clearly would be "Chicken and Waffles." Setting the bar high after the initial bite, it just keeps getting better. Crisp and juicy fried chicken with thick Belgian waffles topped with strawberry butter hold the base of this culinary cruise ship of pleasurable eating.
The warm maple syrup mixed with a few splashes of hot sauce mimics the true essentials for an all out must-have-again dish. In the know is that you can order a ½ size. Our 8-year-old nephew took down almost three-quarters of a regular order and I almost purposely had him forget his takeout box in my car, with a midnight munchie feast as my own agenda.
Metro offers very hearty meals. With specials such as beef pot pie and Salisbury steak with damn good homemade red bliss mashed potatoes and grilled squash as blackboard specials, us older folks remember the staples of hearty meals.
Keeping in the true diner fashion, Metro offers the complete menu from open to close. So, if you are like me and want a patty melt oozing with melted Swiss and grilled buttery rye at 9 a.m., this is the place. The only glitch we found was the bread on the patty melt was just a little too greasy.
Or you can devour what I snobbishly agree is tied with my own recipe for stuffed fresh toast, full of cream cheese and a warm berry compote, known as the Yo Hall on the Square at 7:30 p.m. Seriously, this may be a dessert for four if your eye wanders to dozens of other choices, many not on the low carb diet. Forget about it!! Just go in and devour.
This food is reflective of every great home cook influenced by mom’s kitchen in the 1960’s before artificial ingredients took over. Homemade, homey and just plain good stuff. I'm sure the few missteps in service will be ironed out over time.
Sandwich lovers need an intense work out before trying to take down the Big Berns Pork tenderloin, which easily can feed a family. It is a pounded fried pork tenderloin with melted provolone cheese, caramelized red onions, fried jalapeños and wilted spinach with garlic all stacked up on authentic grilled Chicago Bread.
Southerners will go crazy with the Metro Diner version of shrimp and grits. This Charleston version features two surprisingly fluffy grit cakes infused with cheese, roasted red peppers and Andouille sausage, topped with shrimp, sausage, onions and peppers in a shrimp sauce. But wait, there’s more. Top this monster of deliciousness with chopped bacon and green onions. Quick, loosen your belt buckle.
While the hours of operation are more in line with the mall hours instead of all night diners of the years past, this growing concept is poised to be the next big thing. ( just like my waistline if I am not careful). From Sandi beach Benedict to outrageous fried chicken platters and a really good meatloaf with those creamy mashed red skins, Metro Diner is already a star. All that is missing is frappe machine and coffee milk, (Rhode Island staples). Expect more to pop up on the Suncoast in the coming year.
Special thanks to local Quinn Tonnin and Vincent L. Picou from New Orleans for letting me photograph their expressions as they took down full orders of chicken and waffles.
3501 S. Tamiami Trail