I left my apartment to head towards Diner just in time to catch a lovely skin-moistening downpour. My usually hurried gait turned more into a geriatric shuffle as I tried to avoid puddles and unnaturally occurring waterfalls by way of overhead subway tracks. Bits of asphalt loosened by the rain snuck their way in between my toes, but the impromptu shower also washed the dirt that usually coats my exposed feet. However nice it was to have clean-ish feet (as clean as feet washed in Brooklyn rain could be), they experienced an uncomfortable sensation of prickly asphalt bits and slippery squishes with every step.
Oh, I did have an umbrella. It could've been worse.
And then I found the restaurant about 15 minutes later. Of course, by the time I was walking the last block or two to Diner's front door, the rain had mostly stopped. I just happened to pick that perfect pocket of time for the sky to pee on me.
Alice and I pushed through Diner's thick door—possibly made of lead, or something heavier—with one thing on our minds: hamburgers. Nick's drool-inducing review on A Hamburger Today is what lured me there. ...Besides the close proximity to my apartment.
But there's more than just hamburgers. While the short printed menu may feature a burger and fries, the full ever-changing seasonal menu appears when the waitress writes it on your paper table covering and describe each dish in more detail than you'll be able to remember (you can read sample menus on their website). My brain just latched onto whatever sounded good.
My brain latched onto their Greenmarket salad. Yes. A salad. I don't usually order salads since I expect most of them to suck, but I had a good feeling about Diner's version, probably because the waitress said "sugar snap peas," after which point my brain happily melted. I love fresh sugar snap peas. And I loved this salad. A lot. Even more than the pork chop, which I'll get to in a sec.
Telling you about this salad is probably pointless because they may not be making it anymore, besides that I can't remember everything that was in it (I guess this is why people take notes while they're eating a meal), but let's see if i can capture the awesomeness of this salad in mere words. ... ...Nope, probably not. The mix of mesclun and vegetables of non-leafy nature just tasted so fresh, like concentrated spring in every bite, and completely un-boring with its mix of flavors and textures. The cauliflower chunks, sliced carrots, and sugar snap peas provided lots of crunch. Aside from the sugar snap peas, the tart pickled radishes and rhubarb were my favorite parts of the salad. I'm assuming that whatever tasted like umeboshi and looked like chopped celery was pickled rhubarb, at least.
But a salad isn't just a bunch of chopped vegetables in a bowl; there's also dressing. And whatever dressing they used, it was just right; lightly applied to touch each ingredient and compliment—not mask—the vegetable's flavor. I need to learn how to make these kinds of salads at home, which probably mostly involves buying great ingredients. And pickling things.
Settling on the Berkshire pork chop was easy; Alice and I automatically latched onto it during the waitress's menu recitation, pretty much ignoring all the other choices. Surprisingly though, my favorite parts of the dish may have been the sugar snap peas hiding under the thick pork chop and the fresh purslane (my first time eating it!) scattered on top. Something about fresh vegetables makes me very happy.
As does pork, of course. The meat was incredibly flavorful, juicy and soft, but not necessarily tender, if soft and tender could be seen as two different things. ...It made sense in my head. I didn't do a very good job on the pork chop since I totally suck at eating stuff off the bone, unless it's "fall off the bone"-tender. Alice, the accomplished eater that she is, impressively gnawed the bone clean, getting meat out of crevices I didn't even think meat could come out of.
And how about that hamburger, or cheeseburger more like? It was one of the best burgers I've ever had, due to whatever magical grass-fed meat they use and the all important buttering of the bun. Butter. Is. Your. Friend. A hamburger bun that's treated as a butter sponge is a beautiful thing. The result is the heavenly combination of butter flavor and beefy flavor in every bite, an explosion of fatty goodness that tricks your brain into eating more of this deathly mix of...pure awesomeness. I'm not sure how I'd fare eating a full burger, but since Alice and I split the dishes 50/50, my stomach felt pretty comfortable. For a much better description of this burger, make sure to read Nick's review.
And yes, the fries were also very good. Crisp, and cut from whole potatoes.
We finished with a strawberry rhubarb crumble topped with a large plop of fresh whipped cream. Sweet, warm strawberry and rhubarb goo, cookie-like dough chunk, and cool whipped cream in every bite; you can't go wrong. Unless you try to eat the whole thing yourself, which after a meal of pork chop and burger could be quite uncomfortable.
Although my dinner was nearly the splurgy side ($40 per person, but mostly because of the $30 pork chop), I wouldn't hesitate to go back and splurge some more. Or just get a $12 cheeseburger. The main downside to the restaurant was the noise level of "you'll probably have to scream at the person sitting across from you and vice versa," but maybe you should just be concentrating on the food anyway.