Hailing from the great state of New Jersey, I was privileged to growi up with the best pizza, bakeries, delis, and diners in the country. With over 500 diners in "The Garden State," Jersey, is the diner capital of the world. It's something to be proud of, because, after all, what's not to love about diners? Lazy Susans of gaudily decorated desserts rotating under domes of glass. Jukeboxes sitting on the tables of over-size red leather booths. A menu offering dozens of breakfast, lunch, and dinner items at any time of the day. Quality and variety at prices that haven't changed since Bruce Springsteen was rocking The Stone Pony.
So, naturally, a New Jersey native would assume that any establishment with the audacity to insert the word "diner" after its name would live up to the expectations associated with such a designation. However, Miami's "diners" are nothing short of a disgrace to the proud title.
For one, no diner in the 305 carries the aforementioned physical attributes of true diners. Secondly, South Floridian poseurs lack the speedy service associated with their Northeastern counterparts. Third, the menus of Miami's diners are overpriced and lack variety. And lastly, has anyone down here heard of an "early bird special?!"
One of my most memorable disappointments with a Miami diner took place at Gables Diner. I ordered a $13 Belgian Waffle, assuming I'd receive a crisp, plate-sized waffle smothered in maple syrup, a fruit topping (or side of fresh berries, at the very least), whipped cream, and powdered sugar. What I received was a cold, stark naked "waffle" with three pre-packaged toppings of butter, syrup, and orange jelly! Orange jelly! Really?!
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The latest diner nightmare was experienced at the routinely highest rated 11th Street Diner. While it has the general motif of a diner, and is inside an original rail car built in New Jersey in 1948, the product is anything but diner-esque. And the pricing seems to be geared more towards the touristy climate of its location than all-you-can-eat. The oven roasted turkey with mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce ($12.95) wasn't anything special. The turkey was moist, but not terribly flavorful. The mashed potatoes were decent, but the gravy was bland. The stuffing, okay, was solid. But the plastic cup-portioned offering of cranberry sauce? Mooks!
I also tasted the southern fried chicken ($13.95), which should no longer be touting itself as "Best in Miami by New Times" (They won best diner last year. Bad call.) Throw in bad service by Udonis Haslem's doppelganger, baked goods that look old under the unflattering fluorescent lighting, and a bill for two that totaled $40, and you've got a diner disaster.
Miami, I urge you to better your diners.