A Year In Food

From New York to Costa Rica to Europe to California: 365 Days of Dining Out

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Aug. 2.

Dinner -

Diner - 85 Broadway, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Heirloom tomato salad with olive oil, basil and sea salt; a two-cheese plate; whole grilled dorade with bean and red onion salad; a mint julep; a glass of Muscat; a café au lait

I guess now is the time for me to bring you up to date on all the shocking twists my life has taken on. After sixteen months, I quit my job at the law firm. The lease on my apartment ended in July and I moved out of my beloved East Village apartment. My friend Pat (who you may remember from such meals at Le Bernardin (see Jul. 22), Kuma Inn (see Jun. 18), Mercadito (see Jan. 9), and everything in Costa Rica (see Feb. 8, Feb. 9, Feb. 10, Feb. 11, Feb. 12, Feb. 13, Feb. 14) let me stay at his place in Greenpoint, which officially made me a weeklong Brooklyn resident. (As for what happens when the week in Brooklyn expires, you’ll just have to keep reading to find out.)

To commemorate my time in Bucktown, I decided to spend the week eating exclusively in the borough’s restaurants. My first meal was going to be at Diner, a spot I’d long been meaning to try. I was excited because it was founded by Mark Firth and Andrew Tarlow, who also opened the tasty Mexican spot Bonita (see Jun. 11). That Diner was one of Pat’s favorite destinations only clinched the deal.

After an extended half-hour walk from Pat’s apartment to the far boundaries of Williamsburg, we reached the restaurant. It was cool from the start: a vintage dining car reconfigured as a trendy but modest hangout. The mood inside was fun, with lots of 20-something regulars and locals. Our waiter came by, and sat down next to Pat on his side of our booth. “Let me tell you about our specials,” he said, taking out a marker. As he introduced the ten or so specials, he scribbled down a keyword for each on the white paper tablecloth. It was quirky but a surprisingly effective way of remembering the available options.

It became even more important when Pat observed that the specials were always the way to go here. The few standard menu items are all pretty good, he explained, but the specials are where the kitchen shines. I was inclined to agree, as they sounded far more adventurous than mussels and burgers. He vacillated between the red snapper and the pork loin before picking the latter. I went with the whole dorade, a fish I’d last had in Costa Rica.

As for appetizers, intrigued by a number of dishes, we decided to split. I got the heirloom tomato salad, whose sweet, juicy tomatoes were accentuated by a liberal dash of extra virgin olive oil, basil and sea salt. The result was a deliciously seasonal, confident and deftly well-proportioned opener. Also tasty were our generous portions of the two cheeses, the harder one of which had been soaked in red wine. It was another subtle touch that paid off in powerful flavors.

My entrée continued the streak of simple but careful cooking. The grilled dorade was very good, with its large serving of unadorned fish, even if it was a little too dry. At points, I thought it could’ve used a little saucing, but a little self-applied lemon juice did the trick just as well. The bean and onion salad also added a necessary vinegary tartness, and made for a far more welcome side dish than a boring lump of rice or a more predictable mix of vegetables.

As my dinner demonstrated, like at so many successful restaurants in Brooklyn, the details at Diner are at the forefront. Whether it's the dark red rind on the cheese or the terrifically fresh tomatoes, Diner successfully hides its culinary seriousness behind a casual air and an admirable ease. But no amount of irony can hide that this Williamsburg favorite is a winner or that my Brooklyn week should be a very promising one. 7/10

* A Gastronome in Training also recommends Diner's brunch in October 2004


Anonymous sarah said...


move to l.a.

you'll love/hate it.

lol! :)

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the specials are great, but the burgers/fries are phenomenal -- worth a try next time! also, diner is in (south) williamsburg, not greenpoint. :)

12:11 AM  
Blogger Lonesome Hero said...

I knew it was in Williamsburg! Why did I write Greenpoint? Sometimes, I'm just wacky.

As for where I'm moving, I'll tell all in the next few days. Should be an exciting rest of the year in food.

12:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

congratulations on quitting your law firm job-- i also work at a law firm in the financial district [unfortunately], and live on the LES. i look forward to hearing about your next adventure [might inspire me to quit my job, too!]

9:38 AM  

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