The first time I saw this place was a couple of years ago on our previous New York visit, when we aimlessly wandered about Williamsburg to see what we’d come across. Sadly we never quite made it to Diner, but this time around we were staying a few blocks away and had no excuse but to check it out.
Diner isn’t your typical American diner where it’s all about the cheap and cheerful. Despite its no-nonsense appearance, it’s the food that stands apart from the ubiquitous burgers & fries, sandwiches and cobb salads that seem to be staples in many run-of-the-mill diners. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; as I love the occasional dose of diner stodge!
Without having a regular printed menu, the way this Diner works is by the wait-staff sitting at your table and verbally explaining the eating options, as well as writing them on your paper tablecloth. Might I suggest you set your phone to record what they say, as what they write isn’t as elaborate as the description.
An heirloom tomato salad (14) kicks it off for us; simply presented with roasted scallops, squid tentacles and a caper salsa verde. Some dressed arugula sits on top. Whilst it’s nothing ground-breaking, it’s a tasty little salad.
The beef carpaccio (15) steps away from the traditional thinly-sliced variety you may get at elsewhere. Seared beef fillet, soft-yet-crunchy fried artichoke, grated horseradish, parsley and fried rosemary. Nice flavours, but I would have liked to see a little more horseradish.
People with aversions to fat may not be chuffed with the pork belly (33) when they discover thick layers of the wobbly stuff, but I don’t have much of an issue with that. I don’t necessarily eat it all, but what’s the point of having belly without it? Two slabs of juicily braised belly, eggplant, peppers and a smear of yoghurt. Delicious stuff.
The much lighter cod (25) was clean in appearance and almost refreshing on the tongue. The pan-fried snow-white flesh flaked off beautifully and teamed well with a corn, zucchini and tomato succotash. A couple of clams joined in on the fun as well as a good splodge of basil purée.
With only a couple of desserts on offer, we go for both of them. A flourless chocolate cake (9) that’s nothing like the regular almond meal varieties I’m used to, and a gorgeous white nectarine tarte tatin (9) that had me yearning for more. This is one diner with a difference!
Diner – 85 Broadway, Williamsburg