Dreaming of Diners

Among life's eternal mysteries is this: Why are turkey dinners served only twice annually, at two holidays not even a month apart? Another is this: Where do clothes dryers hide all the missing socks? The latter mystery continues to puzzle, but I discovered the answer to the former the first year I inherited responsibility for preparing my family's holiday repasts -- my last year in college. The time it took to prepare two rounds of turkey with all the trimmings was more than I'd spent studying that semester.

Fortunately an authentic, old-time diner that served up turkey dinners and other simple but labor-intensive home-style comfort foods (chicken potpie, real mashed potatoes and homemade gravy, pie for breakfast, breakfast all day long) was never far away in those days. Unfortunately many so-called diners these days are like their ancestors in name only. You're more likely to find on the menu a pesto-dressed goat-cheese/roast veggie wrap than an honest burger.

In fact Gables Diner does offer the goat-cheese veggie wrap, along with some other fashionable dishes, like snazzy salads enlivened with vinaigrettes no gum-popping diner waitress could pronounce. And with a Spanish stucco exterior, a sleekly paneled interior, granite tops on the booths and bar (yes, with designer cocktails and imported beers on tap), and flickering candles on its tables, the space bears little resemblance to a conventional diner with aluminum siding on the exterior and eggs-over-easy inside.


Gables Diner

2320 Galiano St, Coral Gables

305-567-0330. Open Sunday through Thursday 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

But it's hard to mourn iceberg lettuce and unripe tomatoes slathered with faux-French orange glop when the alternative is an entrée-size salad of sesame chicken with mesclun, American and Asian veggies, roasted cashews, crunchy won tons, and curried cilantro dressing. And what two-fisted drinker would prefer a prole brewski to a creamy-headed Guinness? Or even better, a hefty malted milkshake made with Häagen-Dazs?

There are also ample classics to please traditionalists. You can get apple pie à la mode for breakfast, for instance. And though Gables Diner serves the full breakfast menu until only 11:00 a.m. (3:00 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays), you can get a trucker-size stuffed omelet all day every day.

Fish and chips, billed as "very crunchy," really were (as was accompanying housemade coleslaw) -- the two thick fillets coated with both batter and crunchy crumbs, the slender fries freshly made. And nostalgists will be particularly pleased with the buttery, puff-pastry-crusted chicken potpie, chock full of poultry chunks plus button mushrooms, tiny pearl onions, peas, and square-cut carrots, as the Goddess of Diners intended. Its only fault was a watery sauce, probably a misguided attempt to lighten up a classic.

Thursdays the $10.95 blue-plate special is turkey with old-fashioned herbed bread/celery stuffing, skin-on mashed potatoes, whole berry cranberry sauce, the requisite greenish vegetable, and thick gravy that, as opposed to standard soothing but bland diner stuff, contained lots of wine and was better for it. Sticklers for the way we were will be shocked that the greenish vegetable is a mix of summer squash, zucchini, broccoli, and baby carrots rather than tried-and-true carrots and peas. And the mélange wasn't even overcooked. In fact vitamin-retaining steam cooking will promote a healthier and longer life. Which is something you'll want after having solved one of life's main mysteries: where to get a truly satisfying Thanksgiving dinner any day of the year.

Now, can someone tell me where my socks are?


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