There is something about an old-school diner breakfast. For me, its up there with a burger and fries, pizza and my moms peanut butter and jelly sandwich for best all-American meal.
And now folks in east Boise have a new place to enjoy this old tradition: The Griddle, which opened its newest location on ParkCenter Boulevard last fall.
The small chain opened shop in the old Focaccias space by Mazza and Moxie Java, and the redesign strikes a great balance between crisply modern and 50s-era diner feel (space-age green booths, a handful of old kitchen implements on the walls). It works perfectly for a breakfast- and lunch-only joint.
But you notice one thing straightaway in The Griddle that may take you by surprise (at least it did me): The coffee is dark, rich and delicious.
This old-school diner has some tricks up its sleeve.
The corned beef is slow-roasted on premises. The biscuits hand-made. The fries freshly hand-cut a wonderfully welcome addition to any meal, and pretty much the only kind Ill order anymore. Im happy to see more and more places around town making the extra effort.
The menu is too broad for me to do it any justice here. We were handed two three-page menus, one for breakfast and one for lunch, on a recent Sunday visit. Suffice it to say, you can find a version of your favorite diner meal and so will your spouse, your grandmother and your pickiest kid.
My wifes favorite breakfast, generally speaking a pile of potatoes, some vegetable and cheese isnt available everywhere. But here, Auntie Mos spuds ($9.19) add mushroom and bacon and a couple of eggs to the mix for positive results.
I couldnt finish my biscuits and gravy ($11.99), though in my defense it came with two eggs and three strips of bacon. The huevos rancheros ($8.99) were devoured with gusto by a friend across the table.
Ive been impressed by the specials Ive seen. I loved the open-faced crab cake sandwich ($9.49), smothered in Hollandaise on a buttered, toasted hoagie roll. My buddy built an off-menu burger from the jerk-seasoned infused patty (a Griddle specialty), a pile of corned beef hash and Swiss cheese. It ended up costing $11.67, but he enjoyed it. The waitress who was training on a slow morning just a few days earlier handled the bizarre order with aplomb, and with just the right amount of friendly sass you hope for in a diner.
Another note on staffing: It seemed to be right on the money. A quiet weekday at 7 a.m. is a great time to train a new server she and her mentor were the only folks in the front of the house that morning. On a far busier Sunday brunch, the place was bustling with wait staff and busers. My coffee and water were never empty for more than a minute, and that is a refreshing change from a trend Ive been noticing. I understand the need to hold down costs, but there are places I wont eat because the staff is so slim it affects the experience.
If the Griddle feels vaguely familiar, maybe it is. The original Griddle has been a landmark in Winnemucca, Nev., since 1948. Its the perfect lunch stop on the drive to Reno and parts beyond.
We drive to visit family in California often, and its almost impossible for us to pass this place without stopping, at least for some coffee and pie. It can feel like a trip back in time, and the only challenge is to keep the hard-core comfort food (meatloaf platters, warm turkey sandwiches) from putting you sleep on the long, monotonous drive ahead. I am pleased to report that on winter weekdays, you can fill your belly with these hot plates for $8 or $9, including chicken-fried steak, hamburger steak and a daily pasta. I wouldnt do it when youre planning an active and productive afternoon, however.
The Aboud family, who bought the Winnemucca spot in 1960, are in their second generation now of restaurateurs. They brought the Griddle to Meridian and Eagle a few years ago. The Boise location is the newest.
Boiseans are used to food trends playing out for a few years in Seattle and Portland first, but coming in last to Winnemucca and Meridian! Ah well. Once that tryptophan from the hot turkey sandwich kicks in, we wont even worry about it.
Email Gregory Hahn: firstname.lastname@example.org