Update: As we expected it would, Diner has closed.
Chef Ron Eyester’s goal is to “take the genre of the diner and keep it evolving.” What that means, exactly, remains unclear to us after our first visit. Diner is cavernous and bright, with a big case of improbably large baked goods up front, a prominent bar (but still no liquor license, a fact which bothers others more than it did us), and lots and lots of scattered, disconnected seating areas.
When Clyde and I walk in, three different people greet us, each assuring us that someone else will seat us soon. That person eventually shows up and — in a mostly empty restaurant — ushers us to a huge banquette designed to seat a party of six. We pass on the opportunity, choosing a table for two instead.
It’s noon on a Saturday, so the menu is more brunchy than lunchy. We pass on stuffed pancakes (sausage, bacon, and scrambled eggs inside), chicken and waffles (with peach marmalade), or lobster cake benedict, choosing instead a simple barbecue chicken sandwich.
Well — not all that simple. The Diner version of the barbecue chicken sandwich has evolved into a tall, spiked affair, piling a chicken breast, two fried green tomatoes, and Tillamook cheddar on a soft bun. That sounds good — but the realization of the sandwich turns out to be far less appealing than the description.
My fried green tomatoes have been aggressively fried, rendering them into hot, hard hockey pucks. My chicken breast has been pounded flat and cooked until tough. Because the bread, cheese, and barbecue sauce are tasty, I end up deconstructing the sandwich and focusing on these components (which leaves me paying $11.00 for a barbecue grilled cheese, I suppose).
In the end, the star of the show is the side-dish of mac and cheese: creamy, spicy, and baked until piping hot.
As we walk out, we ask each other, “Would you go back?” Thanks to the mac and cheese, I’m inclined to give Diner one more chance … but given clueless service and Atlantic Station pricing, if this is where the evolution of the diner is taking us, I could do with a little less evolution and a little more intelligent design.