Saturday, March 20, 2010

Big Daddy's Big Disappointments

DinerDiva1 was strolling around Union Square last Sunday when she decided to visit Big Daddy's Diner on Park Avenue South (by 19th Street) for brunch. It had been quite a while since she'd last been there, but she remembered it fondly, and hoped that it wouldn't prove to be overcrowded ...

... which it almost was. The joint was definitely jumping behind its big brightly-lit DINER sign, so much so that Diva1 worried she'd have to sit at the counter or have a long wait for one of the 50's-vibe turquoise-and-salmon-colored booths, if they'd even seat a lone diner at one of those 4-person spots. Not to worry: a lone booth was available at which they readily sat little ole lone diner me, Diva1. I ordered coffee, which was quickly brought, and I settled in to read the menu, a colorful, busy affair written in a friendly, breezy tone. I chose the 3-cheese grilled cheese sandwich, adding a $2 side of tater tots.

This sure looked good when it arrived. First I tried the cole slaw, which was drenched in mayonnaise, not my favorite style but far better than many a diner coleslaw garnish. Next the tater tots tempted: they were nicely crunchy on the outside, soft & tasty on the inside ... but ... at room temperature, barely warm. Then I bit into the sandwich ... and immediately realized my mistake in ordering it. It had sounded like such a good idea to this cheese lover; alas, cheddar, Swiss, and American cheeses melt very differently from one another. The American cheese was perfect; the cheddar was warm but not really melted, and the Swiss, the poor Swiss, had turned into a rubber sheet that only wanted to stretch when bitten into. I'm sure I made for a pretty good comedy skit as I battled the Swiss cheese while eating that concoction, but eat it I did. And the tater tots, too. It wasn't inedible, after all, just ... the wrong temperature in the case of the taters and the wrong idea in the case of the sandwich.

I was hoping dessert might save the meal, so I ordered apple pie. Did I want it a la mode? No. Did I want it heated? Oh, my, yes, please. And so it arrived, served with caramel and a dollop of whipped cream. and drizzled with powdered sugar. It tasted warm and sweet and fresh. Heavenly perfection.

So, with a disappointing entree and perfect dessert under my belt, I thought I'd give the place another try for lunch this afternoon.

This time the atmosphere was not quite so jumpy; there were plenty of booths available, and I chose one near the front. Asked by the attentive waiter what I'd like to drink, I opted for "just water, thanks" and was rewarded with a tall soda-glass of iced water served with a straw and a lemon wedge. That was such a welcome surprise, I put aside all thoughts of cold tater tots and rubbery cheese, and placed my order for a tuna melt (um, American cheese with it, please) with, yes, a $2 side of tater tots.

The sandwich was huge, easily enough for a party of two, and likely well able to feed a full table of 4. The tater tots were still crunchy, delicious, and ... well, above room temperature this time, but still barely warm. I ate as much of the tuna melt as I could, visions of pie perfection dancing in my head, then had the waiter wrap up the rest to take home ... and thought this time I'd try the cherry pie. Which was on the menu. But, alas, as it turned out, not available. They had no pie this afternoon, the waiter sadly advised, suggesting cake instead.

No, I'm afraid not. My tummy was set for pie. Cherry pie. I'd have accepted apple pie, I suppose. But not cake. I didn't want any cake, thank you, just the check please.

Oh, Big Daddy, you have such a nice place: 50's decor, 2 big screen TV's tuned to sports, cheerful attentive wait-people, even on request big glasses of iced water served with lemon. And I shall surely judge all other diner apple pies by yours, and likely find them wanting. But what a disappointment. Tater tots, paid extra for, that arrive barely warm. A 3-cheese sandwich that certainly sounded good at the time, but did you ever try to actually eat it?? And dreamy delicious pie that, alas, is -- *sob* -- "not available today, sorry."

Will I be back? Maybe. Just that, you know, there are soooo many diners out there to try ...

Big Daddy's Diner on Urbanspoon

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