Maryland lump crab cakes, one of the Diner's lunch "large plates," were definitely large, well spiced, and not overbreaded. However, following what seems to be a recent unfortunate trend on Miami menus, the "lump crab" arrived in shreds -- not lumps. And while the accompanying tartar sauce was beautifully tart, the menu promised remoulade. French fries were real potatoes, but limp and saturated with grease, which happens when fries are cooked in oil that's not hot enough.
"Sylvia's Sweet 'n' Spicy Barbequed Ribs" were not what purists would consider real BBQ -- meaning pit barbecue. The Diner has no slow smoker. But the rack was falling-off-the-bone tender, and a final grilling, plus a sweet smoky sauce, gave the virtually fat-free ribs some authentic soul-food flavor. They came with a bracing coleslaw, dressed with vinegar rather than white sauce, and garlic mashed potatoes (actually skin-on smashed potatoes) that, thankfully, had sufficient fresh garlic.
Yes, it's sleek and new and upscale, but don't overlook the good old milkshakes
305-669-2698. Open daily for lunch 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., dinner 4:00 p.m. to midnight.
The slaw and potatoes were also available as à la carte sides, as were the crunchy fresh haricots verts that came with a hanger steak. (The beans are called "French beans" on the menu, but shouldn't be confused with the nasty canned faux-French split string beans most diners serve.) Sadly for vegetarians, the rosti that also came with the meat can't be had separately; it was a great potato cake. But the wood-grilled hanger steak -- called an onglet in France, and similar to a skirt steak -- pleased our table's carnivores mightily. Cooked rare as ordered (and as this cut should be, to avoid toughening), its classically intense beefiness stood up well to the dish's two sauces, a bold Chianti jus and gorgonzola butter.
As for wines, bottles were generally moderate in price, but only because most were modest to start. A bottle of Yellowtail Shiraz, for instance, had been marked up to $29, which doesn't sound outrageous in itself, but it is almost five times the normal $6 retail price. We stuck to the four-dollar milk shakes. For an all-American finish, an extremely chocolate "King of Beasts" five-layer cake and a darned good cup of coffee evoked everything that old-fashioned diners should have been but seldom were.