Friday, October 15, 2010

Capital City Diner is not a Drive-In, but it is a Dive

Not far from the shadow of the Capitol, right past the Atlas District is a classic 1940’s diner that has been plopped in an abandoned used car parking lot. If you didn’t know it was there, you'd completely overlook this small, silver modular structure; if you can even call it that. Despite everything stacked against this restaurant, Capital City Diner fills a neighborhood need and goes above and beyond expectations.

I didn’t grow up on diners in Ohio, the closest things that we had were the Waffle Houses and Steak and Shake locations. Elliot grew up with a hometown favorite called Winsteads, but it wasn't really a true diner, architecturally speaking. Our friends who grew up on the East coast, however, speak of diners in hushed tones as if they are holy houses of food that need to be revered by one and all. They live for scoops of ice cream on top of fluffy waffles and slices of meatloaf served with mashed potatoes (that may or may not have come from a box).

My first trip to Capital City Diner was with Elliot and our friend Abby, who is product of New Jersey. She tells me that she grew up with a handful of diners within 10 minutes of her childhood home. To Abby, diners are a part of life, as integral to NJ life as traffic and the smell of Newark. Luckily, this old-school diner off of Bladensburg won over Abby’s NJ heart and my Midwestern one.

I knew that dinner was going to be a success from the moment we walked in the door. The place is what my dad would call “sticky,” aka it’s been lived in and loved. There was tape over rips in the cloth on the booths. Even the waffle irons look like they came out of Donna Reed’s kitchen.

I find it to be a “best practice” to ask any waiter what their favorite items are on the menu. More than likely they will be able to tell you what they personally enjoy as well as the crowd pleasing dishes that other patrons have tried. Our waiter suggested the ever popular chicken and waffles and the chicken fried steak. Abby chose to go for the steak, Elliot opted for the chicken and waffles and I decided to try Capital City Diner’s version of the BLT. Needless to say, we were a clean plate club.

The waffles had the perfect ratio of crust to fluffy insides and the chicken was seasoned to perfection, allowing it pair perfectly with the sweetness of the maple syrup. All 3 ingredients in the BLT were fresh and married wonderfully with the toasted white bread to make up the classic sandwich. Even though Abby didn’t love her collared greens, she enjoyed every last bite of the steak.

We got the bill and it came to less than $25 with tax. I don’t know how you can beat that. This diner is perfect for an easy dinner, a late night snack, brunch or just a good milkshake. Your mouth and your wallet will thank you.

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