Tucked away under the Williamsburg bridge, the generically named “Diner,” pays homage to the simple menu done right showing that sometimes, less really can be more. A deceptively short menu that reads: soup, salad, hamburger, cheeseburger, ½ chicken, and hangar steak might not sound enticing at first, but sticking to classic diner favorites is all part of the nook's charm.
Gothamist and three dining companions found comfort in the oblong booth in the back of the restaurant on a chilly night earlier this week. An old, refurbished 1927 dining car, the lights inside are dim, the floor’s uneven, and the space is sparse, but there’s no question that the nightly crowd returns for both the food and atmosphere.
Upon sitting down, our waitress approached the table with a list of nightly specials, scrawled onto the paper serving as table cloth. Maintaining the simplicity of the original menu, she simply stated, “bass,” “pork & bacon,” “soup,” “duck,” and an assortment of salads as additional dinner options.
Immediately enticed by one of the night’s special appetizers, Gothamist's party of four started with the crostini, or grilled bread topped with olives, sauteed broccoli raab and drizzled with a olive oil. While devouring our appetizers and watching other tables’ cheeseburgers and steaks pass under our noses, Gothamist sipped on spirits from the adequately large beer and wine list.
Living up to expectations, our first dining companion’s hangar steak arrived slightly too well done on a heaping bed of creamy garlic mashed potatoes, large enough for the whole table to take a taste. Our next dining companion opted for one of the night’s specials, marinated porcini mushrooms and roasted duck served over fried polenta.
Ambivalent about the texture of the polenta, our second dining companion noted that he would have preferred more of the rich and delicious duck meat instead, though Gothamist will note that if you ARE a polenta lover, this is as good as it gets. A third dining companion opted for another of the night's specials, the roasted pork loin wrapped in bacon, which arrived with a delicious side of sweet marinated cabbage and mushrooms reminiscent of sauerkraut, minus the sour.
Gothamist also had a chance to try the chicory & coppa salad and watercress & potato soup, both texturally rich dishes that complemented the table's abundance of meat. For dessert, A meyer lemon tartlet -- creamy enough to make you swoon, but tart enough to make you pucker -- was a much-needed end the meal, refreshing our palettes despite our exploding bellies.
Diner is the a destination for dressed up steaks and burgers in an atmosphere so charming you might feel, albeit for just an instant, that it's really 1927 when you're sitting in that dining car.
Diner is located at 85 Broadway (at Berry) in Williamsburg (718-486-3077), accessible from the Bedford Stop on the L-train and the Marcy Ave. stop on the J, M, Z.