Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Central Diner & Grill

Last Saturday was an exciting day: not just one new-to-us place (Carnegie Coffee Company) but two new-to-us places! After watching the Kentucky Derby (also known as watching the horse I bet finish in 13th place so now SP owes my dad money) we decided to try a place right down the road from us: Central Diner & Grille

I'm not sure when it opened. I think I've read that it used to be a Denny's, but since I don't even remember having a Denny's on Steubenville Pike, I think it's safe to say that either 1) We don't drive on that stretch of road much to get where we need to go in Robinson and/or 2) My powers of observation are absolutely awful. I didn't notice Central Diner & Grille until late last summer and when I did notice it, it was because of the packed parking lot. Its Facebook page bills it as a Diner/Greek Restaurant.

I think what has kept us from going is fear of a long wait. Did I mention the place always looks jam packed? It was busy on Saturday a bit before 7 pm and we feared a long wait. The very personable guy (owner? manager?) taking names told us it would be a 5-10 minute wait and we were skeptical. However, we really were seated in 5-10 minutes. The place is like a well oiled machine - it's controlled chaos, choreographed effectiveness. No sooner do diners vacate their table than a busboy swoops in and quickly - and I mean quickly - cleans and re-sets the table. But no swooping in until the diners have cleared the dining room. There is no rushing diners. The boisterous manager/owner (?) quickly calls your name and seats you, your waitress zips by to deliver water, grab some menus if you don't already have them, and you feel a little dazed at the rapid efficiency that doesn't feel rushed or frenzied.
It's a large menu. Breakfast options, lunch options, Greek options, dinner entree options, plus the daily specials board that took SP 3 photos to capture all the options. I was starting to feel overwhelmed, like when I confront the Cheesecake Factory's zillion page menu. Did I want breakfast? I love breakfast. But I already had a breakfast sandwich. Challah French Toast? I do adore French toast. Omelettes - mmm Greek omelette but wait! Look! Eggs Benedict! An entree? I love chicken parm. But was I that hungry? Maybe just a sandwich. Wait, a panini. Oh wait a sec here's some Greek stuff... moussaka? Gyro? Ohhh wait spanakopita is listed under appetizers. Help!
I ordered a panini. It came with cole slaw and a pickle, which I gave to SP. The cole slaw was good; nothing distinctive, just cabbage and mayo. While I munched on the cole slaw, SP enjoyed this:
Homemade Greek Lemon Chicken Soup. He said it was very good, lemony with rice and chicken bits.
We received a bread basket with a plate of butter pats. The bread was warm. It was delicious and crusty - I think we saw a sign that they use Mediterra products, so we are thinking this bread was from Mediterra.
Soon our Spanakopita appetizer arrived. I was surprised by the presentation - the flaky spinach & feta filled dough surrounded by piles of grated carrot, a tomato slice, a cucumber slice, and crumbled feta cheese. Plus a single kalamata olive.
It was delicious. I actually loved scooping up the grated carrot with each bite (and of course the extra feta!). The spinach filling was possibly the best I've ever had. Usually cooked spinach has a kind of bitter taste, or maybe too iron-like/mineral-like. But this didn't have any of that cooked spinach taste I dislike. It just seemed smooth and tasty and I wanted more of it. We ate every last bit of food on that plate.
SP ordered the daily special Greek Scrod with rice, sauteed onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and feta. He ate about half and took the rest home. He said it was delicious, lemony & herby, and all the flavors were nicely balanced.
I ordered a Roast Beef Panini with roasted red pepper, spinach, mozzarella, and sauteed onions with onion rings on the side. It was enormous - and very tasty.
The ciabatta was delicious, lightly toasted. lots of roast beef, spinach, and onions, just enough roasted red pepper for that sweet tang, and melty cheese. The onion rings were huge and yummy. A fellow diner walked past on his way out and commented on them,"Look at the size of those onion rings! My goodness!" I ate about half of everything and took the rest home for lunch on Sunday.

After all that food you would think we'd pass on dessert. But we didn't. We did, however, get it to go.
They don't have the cakes listed on a menu, so our server had to recite them. She had them memorized and quickly named them all and I got lost somewhere in the recitation and had to ask her to repeat them - I felt awful! The Hot Chocolate Cake sounded interesting - it was layers of chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting in between and covered with chocolate icing. No surprise: it was huge. It was my dessert for both Saturday & Sunday. It was good. Moist, spongy cake, a light marshmallow flavored filling, not too sticky-sweet, and delicious chocolate frosting.
SP loves rice pudding so he got some to go. It was creamy and had some cinnamon and he enjoyed it a lot.

I'm sad that it took us so long to try Central Diner & Grille. It's definitely a great non-chain option in the land of chain restaurants. The menu has something for everyone, huge portions, and what we had was very tasty. The iced tea was fresh brewed. The employees were very friendly and welcoming. It is busy, but as we experienced and as we read on several other reviews, you don't have to wait long to be seated. It can be rather loud in the dining room, but honestly we've recently dined at some restaurants that were much, much louder, in my opinion (like Urban Tap, where I could barely hear myself think and left with a headache).

We'll definitely be back.

  Central Diner & Grille on Urbanspoon

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