When I was out of town late last year I heard that a diner had opened in my neighbourhood. It was news that didn’t really excite me as not only was I in the States surrounded by diners, but I haven’t quite gravitated to the American fast food trend that saturates Sydney at the moment.
On returning to Sydney, I quietly watched the new place on King Street south. Tram Stop Diner never seemed all that busy. Something that often comes down to location, menu and good old word of mouth. Aside from a breakfast menu that was only available from 10am, the regular lunch and dinner menu didn’t veer all that far from a bunch of regular sandwiches and burgers, salads, chicken & ribs and specials. It was time I gave them a go.
The macchiato was pretty decent. Food-wise, I went for a half rack of bbq beef ribs (9) lightly coated in hickory smoked bbq sauce. They looked pretty delicious but the meat was a tad on the chewy side, and more of the smokey bbq flavour wouldn’t have gone astray, either. A nice little cabbage and carrot slaw came with it.
Of the three salads available, the beetroot (14.5) sounded just the ticket. Big hunks of roasted beet and pumpkin, served at room temperature with Persian feta, candied walnuts and micro herbs. A good sprinkle of Kapai Puku added some much-loved crunch thanks to its mixture of seeds, nuts and puffed amaranth.
This wasn’t your ordinary diner salad and it was actually good for me. Loved it. Although, a wedge salad with blue cheese dressing would have made me happy as well.
I never quite made it back to try anything else, but I have noticed the Tram Stop Diner hasn’t been open for a while. Looks like it may be bye-byes for them?
It wasn’t long before things began to change at 609 King Street. The old signage was still up on the windows, but flashes of Mexican signage was appearing and disappearing. What the hell is going on here?
It appeared that El Cuervo Cantina moved from its Enmore Road digs; re-opening in the same space as Tram Stop Diner. The story is that there are two businesses sharing the same address. Diner by day and Mexican cantina by night. As one of the guys that works at the cantina said to me on last visit, “I don’t know what goes on with the diner during the day”.
They’re not connected. They only share a lease. I’m also told that this is Mexican food made by Mexicans. Something they’re clearly proud to announce.
I haven’t eaten Mexican in Sydney much despite the fact that, it too, is just as trendy as American diner food. When a restaurant goes all out with themed décor I tend to (and probably shouldn’t) make the assumption that the food is overshadowed by the over-the-top surroundings. They’re places I find myself avoiding.
No sombreros, “day of the dead” skulls and flashing neons here. And I like it. The menu is simple, fairly small and features the usual empanadas, nachos, burritos and fajitas. Tacos of the day (11) was a line-up of beef, pork and chorizo. No sloppy toppings, just spiced meat with onion and coriander. Very much like the ones I adore from Tehuitzingo in New York. Except they specialise in offal toppings, something I’d love to see here at El Cuervo.
It’s been a while since my last tostada (7), and here at El Cuervo you have the choice of beans, chicken or beef. Crispy corn tortilla topped with torn juicy slow-cooked beef, lettuce, cream and crumbled queso fresco. Simply delicious.
The last chicken mole I had was over a decade ago in Mexico City. I had to give the mole poblano (25) a try here. The chicken breast may have been very dry, but the spiced chilli and chocolate sauce was just as I remember it. Rice, refried beans and chilli sauce come with it, plus an insulated pouch keeping a couple of corn tortillas nice and toasty warm.
My grand plans of returning to try other menu items were halted when I checked their facebook page and learned they were temporarily closed; resolving a few issues with the building owner. As it stands today, they’ve closed for good. Which is unfortunate, as they dished up some mighty fine Mexican.