Nothing Finer than the Wine N DinerOctober 1, 2010
I was a fan of the now-defunct Avenue A restaurant, and was sad to see it close. But sometimes things happen for a reason, and that reason seemed to be so that a wonderful restaurant called Wine N Diner could now occupy the building on Delaware Avenue where Avenue A once stood. The Wine N Diner takes traditional diner comfort food and stands it on its ear in creative and delicious ways, offering an eclectic mix to satisfy all tastes.
The decor is fairly minimal, save for some odd and colorful artwork hanging on the walls. The wine list is not long but does contain a good mix of quality wines; the beer list has a few low-brow familiar brews, but also features some great craft beers, including a few local offerings. There are many intriguing appetizers on the menu; we opted to try the Fried “Deviled” Brie and the Spicy Pickled Shrimp. Taking a mozzarella stick to a new level, the Brie was lightly breaded in cornmeal and crisped to perfection, while the soft cheese oozed pleasantly on to the tongue. The balsamic drizzle was a nice touch. The shrimp were served cool in a martini glass with kimchi (Korean spicy pickled cabbage). The shrimp were very tasty – just enough brine to give it a nice tang, and the kimchi, while store-bought at an Asian market, was spicy and delicious.
For entrees, Wine N Diner offers unique twists on sandwiches, burgers, and vegetarian dishes, along with a few traditional “blue plate specials” like Frito pie and meatloaf. Some of the interesting sandwiches include the turducken – turkey, duck, chicken and stuffing with cranberry mayo (unfortunately they were out of this last night); a turkey, lobster and avocado sandwich; the Rocky and Bullwinkle, which is corned beef, fried oysters, cheddar and a spicy aoli; and the Elvis – peanut butter, bacon and banana. Oh yeah. Burgers include the Tijuana burger with a black bean guacamole, the Cajun bleu cheese bacon burger, and a Hawaiian burger. Main dishes feature offerings like fried chicken and waffles, pork chops, and the Asian Duck Bolognese. They also have a fairly standard kids’ menu.
Our party selected the Rocky and Bullwinkle sandwich, the Mork from Okra vegetarian dish, the Goomba omelet, and the Asian Duck Bolognese. I was so intrigued by the combination of items in the Rocky and Bullwinkle that I had to ask our server how popular it was. She said people really liked it, so I decided to give it a try. I admire the chef’s bravery in creating such a dish, but it didn’t work too well. The corned beef was nicely cooked and tender, and the oysters were tasty on their own, but when grilled together with the melted cheddar, the oysters got mushy and their flavor got lost – so it was like a grilled corned beef and cheese sandwich, and that’s not something I’d want again. But the homemade potato chips it came with were good.
The other dishes were tremendous. The Mork from Okra featured fried okra with sauteed leeks, fennel and beets on a bed of Israeli couscous, garnished with spinach. The flavors blended marvelously, tied together with a lemony sauce. The okra was gently coated in cornmeal and cooked just long enough to be tender (okra gets very slimy when overcooked), and the thick couscous absorbed the light sauce with aplomb (yes, I just used “aplomb” in a restaurant review). The Goomba omelet contained Italian sausage, tomato sauce, cheese and fettuccine, and tasted great, though it was a bit heavy. It was served with beautifully roasted red potatoes, and we also tried a side of sweet potato tots, which were quite yummy – think creamy tater tots. The star of the evening was the Asian Duck Bolognese – thin strips of duck tossed with a red curry sauce, kimchi and fettuccini. The spices were perfect, and the blend of the cabbage and red curry was wonderful, a kind of Korea-meets-Thailand mesh of flavors, and it worked.
The dessert menu was too mouth-watering to ignore. Fried Twinkies with maple walnut ice cream, Toll House pie, apple crumble, and the one we’ll go back for, fried Double Stuff Oreos with vanilla ice cream. Usually reserved for state fairs, these fried morsels of deliciousness evoked moans and sputterings of pleasure from the table. The cookie exterior turned to molten chocolate under the light tempura-style batter, and the creamy middle simply made the taste buds dance. And of course the vanilla ice cream made it all seem like the most sinful dessert ever, but this is a sin I’d be glad to repeat.
Besides the creative, delicious food and the nice beverage selections, the best part about the Wine N Diner is the value. Most of the entrees are under $10, and the portions were generous enough that we had leftovers. With so many interesting combinations and options, we will definitely return to the Wine N Diner.
The MHK gives the Wine N Diner 4 out of 5 stars!