Adventures of a Gastronome in Training (GIT)

One amateur foodie's quest for culinary enlightenment. Musings on cooking, dining, food products, basically all things edible are fair game.

Monday, August 09, 2004


Sitting nearly underneath the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge is Diner (85 Broadway at Berry St.), a reasonably priced American brasserie. Andrew Tarlow and Mark Firth opened Diner in 1999 in a 1927 dining car that has made that corner its home for over 70 years. The warm and classically refurbished interior is styled with worn granite countertops, mirrors with an aged patina, chrome stools, solid wood benches, and a somewhat sloping floor. The result is an uncontrived atmosphere that so many restaurants wish they could pull off. Especially late in the evening, the bar area is filled with local art house and indie rocker types sporting vintage styles and a purposeful unkept look. Even if this isn’t your scene, don’t be discouraged – it’s not a very intimidating crowd.

Chef Caroline Fidanza (formerly of Savoy) has constructed a menu of brasserie favorites – mussels, cheeseburgers, roast chicken, hanger steak. The printed menu is supplemented by an array of often seafood focused daily specials that are charmingly scrawled onto your table as they are described. Both the menu and specials take advantage of seasonal local vegetables. In fact, the owners have recently opened a grocery/café next door, Marlow & Sons, that features locally produced and organic vegetables as well as other high quality provisions.

The starters at Diner are not to be missed. The goat cheese salad ($6.50) combines strong, creamy goat cheese on fresh greens. A recent special, eggplant puree on a sesame seed crostini ($7.50), was delightfully varied in flavor and texture. However, another special, the special cherry tomato salad ($6.50) served on a thick slice of grilled bread, was matched with a disappointingly mild goat cheese. On our last visit, Marty had the blue fish special ($17) with leeks, cherry tomatoes, and other vegetables in a rich, yet subtle cream sauce. I am a big fan of the nicely seasoned rib eye ($22) with rustic, skin-on fries. Although I haven’t tried one yet, the cheeseburgers also have a strong following. I appreciate the ample and hearty portions, but unfortunately they have made me rule out desserts.

The no reservation policy has allowed me to spontaneously journey to Williamsburg for a number of fantastic dining experiences. I’ve even tried out their weekend brunch which was highlighted by an incredible bowl of grits topped with pork slices, cheese, and a fried egg. If this place was in my neighborhood, I could see myself eating here at least once a week, easily more. In a way, I guess, it’s a good thing it’s a borough away…


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Jennie/Female. Lives in United States/Jennie Auster/New York, speaks English. Eye color is blue.