19th Street Diner
February 10, 2004
I had waited until the last minute, as usual, to find a restaurant to profile before my ever-looming deadline, and I decided on a place in Glenwood for lunch.
However, once my companion and I arrived, they had a different idea. Due to a scheduling oversight, they had closed a few minutes early for lunch and the chef was nowhere to be found. So it was no soup for us.
“OK then, to the Diner,” my companion announced, with the same enthusiasm in his voice as when he says “to the Batmobile,” which is more often than you might think.
And that, to me, describes the essence of the 19th Street Diner. It is like an old friend, the ultimate standby for those in the know, and it definitely isn’t strictly a second-choice. But there it waits, open long hours, all the time, breakfast all day, and everything diner is contained within its walls -the convenience of fast food without the food of fast food.
Let’s take a peek: Breakfast, as I said, is served all day, because the morning is not the only time to break a fast. My companion, for instance, considers that span of time between a late breakfast and lunch to be a period of fasting. Breakfast includes a variety of fluffy omelets, running from your basic cheese fluff to the Spanish (cheese, salsa, chili, sour cream), Western (tomato, ham, onion, green pepper, cheese) and Mexican (cheese and green chilis). All omelets are in the $4.95-$5.95 range, and there’s no charge for extra fluff.
They also have an assortment of egg accoutrements, again ranging from the basic bacon, sausage and ham to the more esoteric corned beef hash, sirloin steak and chicken fried steak, if, indeed, chicken fried steak can be called esoteric. Yeah, why not? This is your $4.25-$6.95 range, with steaks up on the high end of the spectrum. What else then? Fried egg and cheese sandwich, $2.50. French toast, $3.95. Biscuits and gravy, $3.50. Griddle cakes, $3.50.
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Some of the handful of breakfast specials are the huevos rancheros: two eggs on a corn tortilla smothered with salsa and chili, melted cheese, flour tortilla and refried beans for $6.95, nicely complemented by the Huevos Outrageous: two eggs scrambled with vegetables and cheese, rolled in a flour tortilla and smothered (lots of smothering going on here) once again with salsa and chili and some refrieds for $6.50. The diner delight is a dish of potatoes covered (or smothered, if you prefer … ask your server) with mild salsa, blended cheeses and two eggs and served with wheat toast for $5.95. The veggie Benedict is artichoke hearts and tomato slices with two poached eggs on an English muffin and you-know-whatted with Hollandaise. So special it is only served on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and it is $6.50. The kids should consider getting a bunny pancake and a small milk for $2.50, because if I were a kid I would get a bunny pancake every chance I got.
Lunch at the diner, in addition to what you would expect (hamburger, patty melt, BLT, club), includes a turkey Reuben: grilled turkey piled high on light rye, melted Swiss, sauerkraut and Russian dressing for $6.75. The pita taco is just what it sounds like, with seasoned steak or chicken with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and marinated veggies with chips and salsa for $5.95, and the veggie wrap is two cheeses, onion, sprouts, guacamole, black olives, cucumbers, lettuce and tomato wrapped in a flour tortilla for $5.75. For an extra $1.50 you can make it not be veggie, if you know what I mean.
Salads and soups and such include the Mediterranean chicken salad: julienne chicken breast, artichoke, tomato, black olives, marinated mushrooms and cheeses and, you know, lettuce, for $6.50. Or check out the diner version of the chicken Caesar salad with romaine lettuce, croutons and tomatoes tossed with Diner Caesar and grilled Santa Fe chicken breast and fresh grated parmesan for $6.50.
Now then, on the platters: Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce the Blue Plate Special for a mere $5.95, giving you the choice of a hot open-faced roast beef or turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes, gravy and veggies. Give it up for chicken fried steak, it’s not chicken, you know, but is in fact the very primordial substance from which diners spring, and it is only $6.50. Liver and onions, liver and onions, liver and onions, $5.95. Veggie stir fry on pasta or rice and smothered, yes people, I said smothered, with cheese, $5.95.
And in the Southwest Corner, weighing in at $5.95, the super deluxe burrito, beef and beans covered in a way that one could easily and accurately refer to as “smothered” with all sorts of burrito-like stuff.
Also in this corner, the Quesa-diner, a large crisp flour tortilla with beef, refrieds, chilis, olives, cheeses, sour creams and guacamoles for $6.25.
Add to this mix, if you dare, a selection of appetizers including potato skins and mozzarella sticks, milkshakes and malteds and floats and sundaes like one would expect, daily dineresque specials, plus a cool, down-to-earth wait staff, a full bar in the back, and whaddya get?
You get your local diner. Not everyone is lucky enough to have such a comfortable friend in their hometown, but in Glenwood, the diner still thrives and the dinees, hopefully, appreciate what they have enough to make it their first choice.