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Philco Bar + Diner | Columbus, OH

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Philco Bar + Diner (Facebook / Instagram @philcobd)
747 N. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 299-9933
Open Mon-Thurs, 8a-11p; Fri, 8a-12a; Sat, 9a-12a; Sun, 9a-11p (bfast served all day)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 9:00 a.m.

At the risk of sounding like one of the old folks, it amazes me how much Short North has changed in the twelve years we’ve lived in Columbus. We lived in the heart of Short North our first two years in town, and we’re just now approaching the status of “Back when I lived in Short North…” So, without further ado… back when I lived in Short North, we had Philip’s Coney Island. It was small, cheap, and basic. To be honest, though, we rarely visited. Sure, there were cheap hot dogs and fries, but it didn’t have the same draw as other neighborhood eateries like Press Grill, Mac’s, Betty’s.

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On pace with Short North’s development in recent years, the Philip’s Coney Island space was reborn of late as Philco Bar + Diner, led by the same team as The Rossi, Club 185, Little Palace, etc. The name itself is a nod to the previous life (Philip’s Coney -> Philco), and they’ve retained a sense of the old place, with booths, counter seats, and yes, coneys on the menu. But the revamp has made the space hipper and (in my opinion) a little more comfortable. Plus they’ve added a fine selection of beer and wine.

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The new space certainly feels much classier than the old, with green leather stools and booths, wine racks over the bar, and wood or stainless steel accents.

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There’s still some feeling of the old restaurant, though, where you can sit at the counter and eat hot dogs, with bottled ketchup and mustard on hand. The menu also includes revamped versions of French fries, coneys, and grilled cheese sandwiches.

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There are also your expected booths, which are big enough to fit probably eight people on busy Gallery Hop nights.

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The breakfast menu follows suit with rich, colorful, and sometimes deconstructed versions of diner classics. We split three dishes amongst the family, starting with the biscuits and red eye gravy. Ohio is more sausage gravy territory than red eye gravy, so you don’t see it too often here. Red eye gravy is more of a Southern dish, typically made with the day’s leftover coffee and the pan drippings from frying ham, bacon, or sausage. Our server made sure we understood which type of gravy we were getting, as previous customers have been surprised to receive a lighter and much sweeter gravy than a chunky, cream-based one.

Philco’s biscuits and gravy are dense and rich. The gravy, which leans more toward the sweet side, soaks into the biscuits, and it’s offset by smokey and salty andouille sausage, then topped with two eggs cooked to order (and sprinkled with paprika).

The portion sizes aren’t huge at Philco, but they make up for it by packing a punch.

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Our server recommended the fried egg tacos. Ironically, they don’t automatically come with fried eggs; you can have them cooked to order, so we asked for them scrambled. Again, the tacos aren’t huge, but they’re rich and filling. They’re topped with various salsas (red + black bean & corn), sour cream, and cheddar. And we added the chorizo. (Because when you have the option to add chorizo, you always do.)

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Finally, we chose the huevos rancheros, built on a base of open-face tortillas and eggs. It’s flavored with a verde salsa and a sprinkling of cotija (a white Mexican cheese). Big bonus for the crispy and flavorful grilled peppers and onions. And we added chorizo because, well, you know.

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Our breakfast dishes went three for three at Philco. Again, the portion size isn’t huge (which some might expect from the “diner” moniker), but they make up for it with big flavors in really colorful presentations. In my mind, this makes Philco an easy choice for breakfast in Short North.

(Also, I know weekends are busy and feature an expanded brunch menu, but don’t forget the value of quiet weekday breakfast, too. Philco opens at 8!)

Philco Bar + Diner on Urbanspoon

HoneyDip Donuts & Diner | Columbus, OH

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Honey Dip Donuts & Diner (Facebook)
4480 Kenny Rd. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43220
(614) 459-0812
Open Mon-Sat, 6:30a-2p; Sun, 7a-2p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 12:30pm

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Who’s up for a big breakfast of donuts and donut sandwiches? Apparently, me! It’s been a while since I’ve been to Honey Dip. The first visit was when they only served donuts, and the second was a quick peek at the new renovations that added the “and Diner” to the name.

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Well, now it’s time to get a good look at how the donut shop has remade itself as a diner. Judging by the decently busy Saturday afternoon, they’re doing quite well.

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Fans of the original version of Honey Dip will still recognize the space and the feel. The long, low counter, the red tile floor, the pink donut shelves. More seats have been added, and the old donut prep area is now a small dining area with eight tables.

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Donuts are still the feature; upon entering you’re greeted with a sight of the classic shelves.

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And a glass case full of the extra special goods like longjohns, cinnamon rolls, and apple fritters.

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The purpose of this exploratory visit: to sample a donut sandwich. Honey Dip offers three: the breakfast sandwich, the BLT, and the burger.

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We found a small table and looked through the one-page breakfast menu. It has all the basics covered: eggs, omelets, pancakes, sandwiches. Even some specialties like eggs benedict and a breakfast burrito.

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My son wanted something simple: the two eggs, home fries, and toast. As with any basic breakfast, you can customize it: eggs, choice of toast, sausage patties or links (or bacon), home fries or hash browns. All of it was nicely done. The eggs were scrambled without being dry, the sausage patty was basic but seasoned well. The hash browns could have been a little crispier, but they came in a generous portion. All in all: a very filling and likable diner breakfast.

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We were hungry, so we also split the biscuits and gravy, a small but rich bowl of thick sausage gravy along with two soft biscuits. The gravy was thick to the point of being a little gummy, but it was chunky and peppery.

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And now on to the main show: the donut breakfast sandwich. When I posted a picture of this on instagram, I couldn’t help but exclaim, “What am I doing with my life?!” And that’s the honest question you have to ask yourself after you’ve ordered one of these. What has led you to this point?

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The construction is simple and really, it seems so obvious. You take a breakfast sandwich (a fried egg, a sausage patty, a slice of cheese) and you grill two donuts instead of bread. It’s the perfect marriage of sweet + salty. The warm donuts collapse under the pressure into two solid layers of sugar. But I have to be honest about two things:

1.) This sandwich was delicious. I mean, seriously: it’s a breakfast sandwich made with donuts. The only failing point is that you mostly just taste the donuts. Sure, there’s a hint of sausage, a soupcon of cheese, a waft of eggs, but for the most part you’re tasting two warm, soft honey dip donuts.

2.) This sandwich also sat with me for a long time. A long time. I honestly wasn’t hungry until the next day.

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You also can’t walk out of a donut shop without some donuts (and I’m wondering why I was still full the next day?), so we snagged a half dozen of a couple custard-filled donuts, two longjohns, and a pair of their signature glazed yeast donuts. Honey Dip has long been a favorite donut shop of many, and they’re still riding on that strength.

Well, now you know about breakfast at Honey Dip in all its glory. If a full-blown donut sandwich isn’t your thing, you can always settle for a donut and a cup of coffee, or a small plate of eggs and toast. Overall, Honey Dip seems to have successfully transitioned over the years from a favorite donut shop to a favorite donut shop and diner.

Honey Dip Donuts & Coffee on Urbanspoon

Beyond Breakfast: Missy’s Arcade Restaurant | Titusville, PA

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“Breakfast is done!” we were told as our server seated us at Missy’s Arcade. That’s always a bummer to hear, but even though we couldn’t make this a breakfast stop, our experience and the atmosphere of Missy’s Arcade Restaurant are still noteworthy.

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We stopped by Missy’s for a full lunch after pre-gaming some donuts at Clark’s Donuts Plus nearby, and before climbing aboard the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad for a ride through the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside.

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Missy’s popped up on our radar when we searched for local lunch spots online, and it had all the marks of a retro diner, not the least of which is the old building front and the vertical neon sign. The structure fits with the historic nature of Titusville and nearby towns like Oil City and Franklin, which boomed in the 1860’s with the sinking of the world’s first oil well. The small urban centers surrounded by big mansions speak to the decades of oil wealth and the communities that sprung up around it.

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The interior of Missy’s has been refurbished. It’s honestly hard to tell how old the restaurant really is, but now at least, it reads like a Coca-Cola advertisement. Every available surface is plastered with Coke paraphernalia – some very old and some much newer.

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The Coke kitsch covers everything from walls to shelves to ceiling fan blades.

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Our server fit the vibe of old diner, too. She was certainly friendly, but she got right down to business. She was one of those servers whose territory is very well defined. You’re the customer, yes, but you’re in HER restaurant.

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The meals were simplicity itself; they were just the right type of comfort food you’d expect from an old restaurant like this. Like the cup of French onion soup and a salad.

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Chicken breast sandwich and fries.

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A kid’s of meal of grilled cheese and fries.

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The kid’s burger.

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The turkey reuben.

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And the classic reuben with the corned beef thick-sliced and nicely grilled. All in all, Missy’s is a simple place to fill yourself up. It’s small, comforting, and speaks to the history of the area.

If you want to visit:
Missy’s Arcade Restaurant
116 Diamond St. (map it!)
Titusville, PA 16354
(814) 827-8110

Missy's Arcade Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The Diner | Powell, OH

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[EDIT 9/6/13: The restaurant has be renovated under new management, and is now called the North Liberty Diner.]

The Diner
240 N. Liberty St. (map it!)
Powell, OH 43065
(614) 846-8550
Open Mon-Sat, 7a-2p; Sun, 8a-2p
Accepts cash & check ONLY
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Friday, April 12, 2013 at 9:30 a.m.

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Once in a while there are little whispers on the wind. Have you heard? There’s a new diner in town. This is when a breakfast blogger dons his traveling cloak, pulls on his boats, grabs his walking stick, and goes on an adventure. In this case, he trekked his way up to Powell – not quite as far as Mount Doom, but a small journey from central Columbus nonetheless.

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The Diner – which is as straightforward of a name as you can get – is in a small stretch of stores a couple blocks north of downtown Powell. The space used to house the Grace Diner and briefly a place called Jodi’s Home Cooking, but has now been nicely renovated and brought to life again. The restaurant is one simple room, with a five-seater counter and about eight tables.

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When we arrived, we found the diner half full, which is a great sign. Our server told us they’ve been in business for two months, and they seem to be drawing a steady crowd. Another good sign of a healthy diner: the regular “old guys” who are sitting at the counter. That’s when you know a diner has truly taken root in a community.

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One of the first things I heard about the diner was that they served goetta. Yes, goetta. If you’re a native of Cincinnati, then you recognize this as a piece of home. If you’re a non-native, or you’ve just never heard of it before, goetta is a dish created by German immigrants in the greater Cincinnati area. It combines meat scraps (usually pork) with oats, spices, sometimes onions, then is sliced and fried.

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And yup, there is is on the menu.

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First things first, though, before we get to the goetta. For my 1.5-year-old I ordered some scrambled eggs and toast a la carte.

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My sister-in-law ordered the Diner Special: eggs, home fries, meat, and toast. None of this was astounding, but it was exactly what you’ve come to know and love from a good diner breakfast.

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I was feeling a little off-the-hook, so I went for the Big Breakfast: two eggs, meat, home fries, and toast. Eggs and toast were just fine, potatoes were appropriately crispy (my 1.5yo ended up stealing most of mine), although they could have used a little more seasoning. Of course I chose the goetta as my meat. This was actually my first time having goetta, so I’m not sure how this version stacks up to the popular Glier’s brand out of Cincinnati (although one of the cooks did say they get their goetta straight from Cincy). The patties were a little thinner than I expected, but they still packed a flavorful punch. The outside was nice and crispy, while the inside was a tad chunkier than the scrapple I’ve tasted. I got a sense of bigger chunks of meat plus the oats, and I know I saw onions in there. I couldn’t identify all of the spices, but it was enough to differentiate from a standard breakfast sausage.

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The Big Breakfast also comes with your choice of three pancakes or two slices of French toast. I’m more partial to French toast, especially when you have the option to order it deep fried. Why just batter French toast and throw it on the flattop when you can go full force and fry it?! There’s a lot to like about French toast like this; as my sister-in-law said, it tasted like funnel cake.

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Our food did take a little while to come out – maybe because they had to deep fry my French toast? – but I later found out that the owners were out of town, so perhaps it was someone newer at the grill. Still, the wait wasn’t horrible and the food was comforting and filling.

So what do you think? Goetta aficionado or not, I think The Diner is worth checking out, at the very least to support a locally owned business and help establish a diner for this part of town.

The Diner on Urbanspoon

Chef-O-Nette | Columbus, OH

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Chef-O-Nette
2090 Tremont Center (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43221
(614) 488-8444
Open Mon-Sat, 7:30a-8p (bfast served all day)
Accepts cash & debit/credit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Monday, January 21, 2013 at 10:30 a.m.

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Nearly every comment, blog post, or review about Chef-O-Nette will tell you that it’s a diner that’s lost in time. And that’s absolutely true: when you put your foot in the door it’s like someone hit pause on a big universal remote. The entire experience feels a little like stepping out of time. Things inside Chef-O-Nette move at their own pace. The atmosphere is quiet and subdued, while the layout and decor don’t seem to have changed much since the restaurant opened in 1955.

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Just looking around will reveal the charmingly dated layout and decor: floor partially carpeted and partially covered with formica, long green runner carpets, old school red leather upholstery, latticework walls, neon signs.

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My favorite detail of the space are the two U-shaped counters. They stick out into the space at an angle and are surrounded by short-backed red swivel seats. The counter itself is low and wide; a long-legged person like me feels a little crammed sitting in those seats. I love that the open end of each counter leads back into the kitchen, so servers who appear in front of you to take your order or bring your food are standing in a little island.

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Chef-O-Nette’s breakfast menu is fairly small. It mainly features the egg/meat/toast combinations, with pancakes and French toast, plus an omelet thrown in for good measure. The waffles aren’t listed on the menu, but there’s a paper sign near the door suggesting them.

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I started with a cup of diner coffee. It’s just as you would expect: hot and bitter. I like, though, that they serve it in small cups. Smaller cups are easy to hold in your hand and they cool off faster. Part of me hopes to spend my retirement sitting in an old diner with a cup of coffee like this.

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My 4.5-year-old ordered two eggs with sausage patties and toast. All very simple and straightforward. I don’t think the sausage is made in-house, but it was well seasoned. The toast is generously buttered, and the eggs are cooked evenly. At restaurants you frequently see scrambled eggs cooked flat and then folded over itself. So while they’re scrambled, it’s not the typical pile of eggs. This lets them cook the eggs faster, because they’re spread out across the flattop.

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I also did the two eggs combination, but of course added bacon and hash browns to it. All good, but nothing blow-your-mind remarkable. Buttered toast, some crisp to the potatoes and the bacon, good eggs. Nothing fancy, but you don’t go to Chef-O-Nette for fancy. You go for simple and filling.

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Speaking of filling, I also felt the need to order one of their waffles. Again, simple, and again, likeable.

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Even though it isn’t strictly breakfast, I  have to show off Mrs. Bfast w/Nick’s chicken-fried steak, too. I just love how beige this meal is. This is basic comfort food: crispy chicken with white gravy and a scoop of mashed potatoes, plus sides of canned green beans and rolls with butter.

I’ve said many times before that every neighborhood and every small town needs its diner. Well, Upper Arlington, this is yours. Chef-O-Nette has been serving breakfast on the slow-and-steady for nearly six decades now, and there’s no reason to change a thing about it. Families have gathered there over multiple generations, and here’s hoping they’ll continue for many more.

Fun historical note: Chef-O-Nette claims to have the oldest drive-through in America. Owner Harlan Howard has said that he can’t find record of any restaurant serving out a drive-through window (note, not a drive-in) earlier than Chef-O-Nette. Harlan has owned the restaurant for a long time, having inherited it from his father, who bought it in the 60’s. Harlan also says that no one knows the origin of the name Chef-O-Nette; that secret passed away with the first owner.

Chef-O-Nette on Urbanspoon

Barnstormers Grill | Columbus, OH


[UPDATE: Barnstormers Grill has closed, but has been re-opened under new owners as Jack & Benny's Barnstormer Diner.]

Barnstormers Grill
2160 W. Case Rd. #13 (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43017
(614) 292-5699
Open Mon-Sat, 7a-3p (bfast served all day!)
Accepts cash and credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 9:20 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Oh, how I had loved the idea of The Barnstormer. Breakfast in an airport? Are you kidding me? Two of my favorite things! But alas, it wasn’t meant to be: I visited once in late 2009, had an okay experience, and then the restaurant quietly closed a couple years later. It was a missed opportunity. Until two days ago, when a reader sent me a message saying that the restaurant was re-opened under new management and serving good food! On top of that, the reader pointed out that you can you can go up in the old control tower, now converted into a simple observation deck. Needless to say, less than twenty-four hours after finding this out, I was eating breakfast and watching airplanes with my boys.

ATMOSPHERE: The restaurant space isn’t radically changed, although there are a few more dashes of OSU colors, and it’s brighter overall. Still a lot of aviation-themed decorations. It’s a three-and-a-half-year-old’s dream. (Oh, heck, I loved it, too.) There are plenty of tables scattered throughout the space; only one other was filled while we ate.

FOOD: The menu is simple and straightforward: four omelets (including a vegetarian option), four combination meals, and a kid’s menu. There’s plenty of a la carte items, too. Breakfast is like that. My son chose the Little Flyer: eggs, toast, bacon, and a drink. He didn’t have much of his bacon, so I tried some. Crispy, just the way I like it.

I was in a sausage gravy and biscuits mood (the dish is a new addition to the menu). It came with a heaping side of two eggs and hash browns. This is just one of the plates. Good crispy hash browns, and the eggs were wet enough, although they tasted slightly of that generic diner flattop cooking oil.

And this is the plate of biscuits and gravy. Two dense biscuits halved, covered in gravy. It was perhaps the thickest, meatiest sausage gravy I’ve had. Very dark, and pretty well seasoned.

At $5.75, it’s a lot of food, and a fairly heavy meal.

Our breakfast companion, Bill, ordered the pancakes and gave me a taste. Overall, very good. It was browned well on the grill, but spongy throughout. Good example of diner pancakes.

SERVICE: We were treated very nicely by our server and by owner Jodi Perez. It certainly helped that there weren’t many people in the restaurant, but they were very attentive and our food came out quickly. Our server left this card with us at the end of the meal. I don’t think I’ve seen a breakfast punchcard before!

OVERALL: I think the new management and little makeover for Barnstormer (now renamed Barnstormers Grill) is just what it needed. The space is brighter, the menu is more focused (I’m told they have good burgers for lunch), and it’s a little better connected with the airport itself. The improved food makes me want to return, whereas the previous version didn’t. And knowing more about the airport grounds makes me want to visit every morning. The restaurant is just a small room connected to one of the hangars. This is the view through the service door that leads into it.

Of course the boys and I went exploring afterward. Just outside the door to the restaurant is this entrance to the airport terminal. At the top of the picture is the old control tower, now the observation deck. It’s reachable by a series of short flights of stairs.

But the view from the top is pretty awesome. You’re right next to the runway and the plane “parking” area. There’s a table and chairs, so you could order your breakfast to-go and then come up here. Just sayin’…

Breakfast and some plane-watching made for an enjoyable morning, especially given the company.

Barnstormer on Urbanspoon

Greenville Dinor | Greenville, PA

Greenville Dinor
7 S. Mercer St. (map it!)
Greenville, PA 16125
(724) 588-8820
Open Sun-Wed, 6a-8p; Thurs-Sat, 6a-9p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? N/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Saturday, December 24, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: It’s easy to be mean to small-town diners. I’ll admit, I’ve done it. They’re small, their food is often lowest common denominator, and let’s face it, if  you’re someone who lives in a big city like me, we often smugly enjoy the “quaintness” of small town life. Or we romanticize the feeling that “there aren’t enough of these left in the world!” Despite growing up in a medium-sized city, currently living in a larger one, and often visiting smaller ones, I experience all of these feelings when visiting small-town diners.

Or maybe I’m over-thinking it. Small-town diners are the hub of community and good food, just like any other diner across the country. They mean something to the community, and their charm comes from the rough edges and the little local flair. Okay, I’m over-thinking this. Let’s start again…

On Christmas Eve my brother-in-law and I finally visited a small diner in my wife’s hometown. The Greenville Dinor (yes, it is spelled with an “o” and I don’t know why) has been around for decades, off a side-street in downtown Greenville, just up from their magnificent pre-Depression post office building (see pictures here). We found the entrance to the dinor through a back door off the municipal parking lot.

ATMOSPHERE: The interior is a mix of small diner and dive bar. There’s carpeted floor. Low ceilings. Christmas lights and neon signs. TV sets. A checkered pattern across the counter, with a handful of swiveling stools. At one end of the restaurant is a series of beer coolers.

The main seating is a long row of booths along the front window. On a chilly, slightly snowy Christmas Eve, it was surprisingly cozy.

The front of the menu claims 80 years in business, which is nothing to sneeze at. In addition to breakfast, they serve lunch, dinner, and drinks; the menu brags about sandwiches, burgers, Robbie’s soups, wings, and fish.

FOOD: The one-page breakfast menu has a decent variety of things. I glanced over it too quickly to notice that they actually serve eggs benedict. But they’ve got you covered with omelets, pancakes, French toast, corned beef hash, even chipped beef on toast, which you don’t see that often. The benedict is actually listed under the omelets, which is why I missed it completely.

First order: diner coffee served in those glorious brown mugs. I’m guessing there’s a law somewhere stating that diners must use these mugs for coffee service.

My brother-in-law ordered the eggs benedict, and said he enjoyed it. The egg yolks looked a tad over-done, and the hollandaise a little light, but otherwise it’s a decent version of the dish. Came with some nice crispy hash browns.

I was in more of a combo mood, so I went with pancakes, eggs, and bacon. Easy-to-like pancakes – buttery and browned nicely, they soaked up the syrup. Good scrambled eggs, and the bacon was crispy. I don’t realize this often enough, but I really like bacon that’s crispy, almost to the point of being dry. This bacon hit the spot.

Plus I had more coffee. It was cold and early. Bring it on.

SERVICE: The servers were quick to take our orders and quick to bring it out. Checked in on us frequently. Kept the coffee refills coming. I had that feeling that if I gave them some sass, they’d give it right back.

OVERALL: Between the big city smugness and the small town romanticizing, I’ll land on the side of romanticizing. The Greenville Dinor is a tiny eatery that not many people know about outside of the Shenango Valley in western Pennsylvania, but all the same it has a dedicated clientele who have frequented for decades. I may not rush to visit again the next time we’re in town, but it’s nice to know that it’s there, and that places like this still exist.

OTHER LINKS:

-> listen to Harrod & Funck talk about eating at the Dinor (at the end of the song)

Greenville Diner on Urbanspoon

161 Diner | Dublin, OH

161 Diner (Facebook / @WFM_Columbus)
3670 W. Dublin-Granville Rd. (inside Whole Foods Market) (map it!)
Dublin, OH 43017
(614) 760-5556
Open Mon-Fri, 11a-9p, Sat & Sun, 10a-9p (brunch served Sat & Sun, 10a-2p)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? N/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 10 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Breakfast in a grocery store? Yes, you read right. Those familiar with Whole Foods Market know that their goal is to create more than just an average shopping experience. Instead, they want to keep you wandering the store for hours, sampling wines, buying gelato, tasting a wood-fired pizza, and more. In short, they are trying to recreate a central city market, in which small cafes or street vendors sell you meals on-the-go while you visit your favorite cheesemonger, butcher, and coffee roaster. Or even while taking your regular spot at your favorite diner counter. Yes, they’ve done even that. Enter the 161 Diner.

ATMOSPHERE: The 161 Diner is indeed a counter inside the Dublin Whole Foods. This WF is the first and largest one in greater Columbus, located in a plaza near the intersection of Sawmill Road and Dublin-Granville Road (Route 161). This means you have to brave the traffic of some of Columbus’ busier thoroughfares, which not everyone is keen to do. You can find the diner on the east side of the store, in the very large prepared foods section. 161 Diner is their version of the American diner, situated amongst Italian food, sushi, pizza, baked goods, and more. Brunch is only served on weekends, and it’s a busy affair. Even though 161 isn’t a traditional diner, it still has its regulars, and the counter stays full.

FOOD: I found a spot at the stainless steel counter and ordered a coffee. I believe they use some of the Whole Foods-brand coffee, but I don’t know for sure. Still, it’s well-brewed – not the acidic “angry water” (as my father-in-law calls it) that you find in most true American diners. Bonus points for serving cold cream with it. I had to search the counter for one of the jars of raw brown sugar. It seems fitting to the type of coffee you’d expect Whole Foods to serve.

I relied on the kitchen staff to suggest unique dishes to eat. They all recommended the sweet potato biscuits first. You don’t see these often enough on breakfast menus, and when they’re done well, they’re great. These very good, although not the best I’ve had. They make use of the sweet potato flavor, although they came out a little on the crunchy side for me.

This is helped by the serving of 365 brand (Whole Foods’ private label brand) jams. A crispy piece of sweet potato biscuit smeared with jam = all right in my book.

For my entree I again relied on the cooks behind the counter, and they all said, “You need to try Danielle’s Meat Cakes.” Um, what? If there’s any phrase that should give you pause in life, it’s “meat cakes.” Danielle’s meat cakes are loaded pancakes – three of them, to be exact – layered with meat, cheddar cheese, topped with strips of bacon, and sprinkled with more cheese. Oh, I’m sorry, does this picture make the dish look small to you?

Maybe this is better. As you would expect, the meat cake is served sizzling and pouring over with goodness. I didn’t even take a picture with the maple syrup (real, mind you) drizzled over the top. In terms of sheer breakfasty flavorfulness, it’s hard not to like it. Pancakes with meat in the batter? Check. Bacon? Check. Cheddar? Check. Crispy fried on the flattop? Check. It’s a breakfast blogger’s dream. Now, is it healthy? Eh… probably not. It’s a lot of food, and a lot of food straight from frying.

SERVICE: In case you were wondering, yes, Danielle, creator of the meat cakes, is a real person, and that’s her cooking my breakfast. All three of the servers working that morning were very friendly and accommodating. The food is all cooked right in front of you, and they clearly have regulars at the counter, even if this is a diner in a different context. That shows you they’re doing something right. A lot of people seemed to come straight to the diner, too. They weren’t dragging grocery carts behind them, just happening to stop for a bite to eat. They came to the store to eat at the diner.

OVERALL: Admittedly, I’m not a regular shopper at Whole Foods. It’s not in my neck of the woods, and the pricing is often beyond my budget. But whether Whole Foods is your grocery store of choice, or not, I think it’s worth at least one trip to the 161 Diner. I tried more of the loaded fair, but there is a lot more to explore: chocolate chip pancakes, prosciutto eggs benedict, even sweet potato biscuits and gravy. The pricing is a couple steps higher than a $4 breakfast platter, but I think the quality and quantity of the food is commensurate. (Sorry, I was jut looking for an excuse to use that word.) Whole Foods is known for well-chosen ingredients, so the construction of their prepared foods is pretty solid as well.

OTHER LINKS:
-> view photos of their updated menu (3/30/12)

Hamburger Inn | Delaware, OH

Hamburger Inn (Facebook)
16 N. Sandusky St. (map it!)
Delaware, OH 43015
(740) 369-3850
Open Mon-Wed, 6a-9p; then open 24 hours from Thurs 6a through Sunday 9p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? N/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

IMPRESSIONS: On a recent trip up to Delaware, Ohio, I finally made it to the Hamburger Inn. I’ve gotten many recommendations for it, particularly whenever I ask where to eat breakfast in Delaware. The Hamburger Inn – which is not an inn, to be clear – can be found on the very cool stretch of Sandusky Street in downtown Delaware. Along the strip there are all sorts of shops, galleries, restaurants, coffee shops, offices, and more, including the great Beehive Books, which may or may not carry a certain author’s breakfast book.

You’ll recognize the Hamburger Inn by the two signs out front: the brighter, newer one on the maroon awning, and the older, off-center letters, presumably the original signage on the building. The restaurant falls under one of those “don’t deny your DNA” spots. This comes from Alton Brown’s description of good restaurants: don’t deny what you do. Be honest with your food and your style, and customers will appreciate it properly. It’s all about expectations. The Hamburger Inn may not be the most imaginative restaurant, but it’s an honest-to-goodness old diner, and they do that well.

ATMOSPHERE: The Hamburger Inn is a single-room diner, with two big wooden U-shaped counters that jut out into the room. One side of the restaurant includes the kitchen, with the grill and prep areas. There’s no real counter seat to watch the grill, but you still get the camaraderie of sitting close to or facing your fellow diners. The atmosphere is that of a typical diner: white noise from some TVs, bustle in the kitchen, customers chatting.

FOOD: Being in an old-school diner (since 1932!), I chose the standard diner breakfast. It’s a good way to judge a restaurant. The result: good scrambled eggs, toast soaked in butter, a basic sausage patty, and some soft, sliced potatoes. All good, although the potatoes need some seasoning, and they need to be left on the grill longer. Not quite enough crispy brown edges for my taste. I also had coffee, which qualifies as that special blend of diner coffee: caffeinated, hot, slightly bitter, only partially improved by cream and sugar.

SERVICE: The servers are as nice as you can expect. Hamburger Inn, like all good diners, cultivates its regulars, so while we ate we noticed a number of people walk in, sit down, and be served their “usual.” You don’t get that way without a group of cooks and servers who are kind and welcoming.

OVERALL: As I said earlier, the Hamburger Inn is like most diners in that the food isn’t off-the-charts good, but the building and decor are fun to see, the service is friendly, and the portions are filling. Every good neighborhood or town needs its old diner, and this is clearly Delaware, Ohio’s. This makes it a necessary stop in any exploration.

OTHER LINKS:

Hamburger Inn on Urbanspoon

Sloopy’s Diner | Columbus, OH

Sloopy’s Diner
1739 N. High St., in the Ohio Union (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43210
(614) 292-7000
Accepts cash, credit/debit, and BuckID
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y
Date of Visit: Friday, August 5, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: Anyone who attends or works at Ohio State is familiar with construction on campus. We live with road closures and new buildings, but we also enjoy the fruits of all that labor. Cases in point: our beautiful renovated library, and our massive new Ohio Union. And a bonus that came with the Union: the designers wisely placed a diner in it.
ATMOSPHERE: Because Sloopy’s is, after all, situated on the campus of THE Ohio State University, you can expect very heavy Buckeye themes. Tile floors, plates, lighting fixtures, booths, signs, countertops, everything is decorated in scarlet and gray. It’s very fitting for a diner, actually.
If you go at mealtimes, especially during the school year, you’re bound to find crowds of students. However, the diner provides a wealth of seating, with two levels of booths, tables, and a looooong row of counter seats. For a diner, it’s pretty spacious.
You also get a big view of the kitchen, so Sloopy’s may not have that crammed-next-to-your-neighbor charm that smaller places like Nancy’s or Jack & Benny’s boast, but it still gives you enough of the diner flare.
FOOD: We started off with some coffee. Notice the checkered scarlet and gray around the cups and plates. Coffee was good diner coffee; bonus points for bringing out a mug of cream automatically.
We had heard tell of their popular cinnamon rolls, too, so we sampled one. It was pretty warm and soft. Definite cream cheese taste in the frosting. Not the best cinnamon roll ever, but I can see why people go for them. It works well as an appetizer for a group.
I haven’t seen too many breakfast sliders on menus, so we had to try one of these, too. It’s essentially a small breakfast sandwich with scrambled eggs and a sausage patty, but then it’s topped with crispy onions and a dash of barbeque sauce. This could make an easy light breakfast (or another appetizer). The ingredients came together well: the onions and a little bit of zest from the sauce sold it.
I ordered the smothered breakfast burrito: a flour tortilla packed with eggs, cheddar, chorizo, black beans, and salsa. I’m a sucker for a good burrito. This wasn’t the most dynamic, but it certainly tasted good and was filling. The chorizo and salsa were pretty flavorful, and you can’t argue with eggs and cheese. Came with a side of nice crispy hash browns.
Here’s the overhead artsy shot of my burrito.
And here’s the No Veggies Here omelet, loaded with bacon, sausage, ham, turkey, and cheese, then covered with black beans, avocado, and more cheese. We chose the side of hash browns. Like the burrito, the dish was delicious and portions were student-sized. You’ll certainly get your fill at Sloopy’s. It’s a wonderful combination of diner + student cafeteria, which means you’ll get a lot of comfort food.
SERVICE: Sloopy’s fully embraces the 1950’s diner theme. The menu is shaped like a record, and you’re of course treated to lots of 50’s rock music while you eat. Although the servers don’t come to your table on roller skates, you’re still treated well. Our service was great: very friendly and welcoming, able to suggest menu items and tell us about the restaurant.
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