Diners fix midnight hunger

Broad Street Diner is easily accessible and open 24 hours a day. South Street Diner’s menu is large, but the food is bland. Leah Blewett When the first sight that greets you inside a restaurant

Broad Street Diner is easily accessible and open 24 hours a day.

South Street Diner’s menu is large, but the food is bland.
Leah Blewett

When the first sight that greets you inside a restaurant is plastic sheeting around a construction zone, labeled hastily in black marker, “Please pardon our appearance and noise,” you know you’re in for a treat.

Now, I’m not knocking the Broad Street Diner. Far from it. The place has seen me through greasy omelets on snowy mornings, midnight mozzarella sticks with my girlfriends, and one rather awkward break-up conversation over a cup of milky, gray coffee. The renovations going on during my last visit made a less-than-stellar impression, but as one of Philly’s only outposts for food and surly waitresses that is actually open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Broad Street Diner is all right with me.

The same doorman has been working there since I started visiting three years ago, directing cars as they attempt to park in the undersized lot out front. You’re much better off taking the subway, a straight shot down the Broad Street line to Ellsworth-Federal, but if you’re feeling daring, and don’t mind a few nicks in the paint, he’ll direct you into a space you never thought your ’87 Crown Vic could occupy. Chances are he’ll smile and say hello, and you’d better soak it up, because it’s the most friendliness you’re likely to see from the staff.

Servers here rotate pretty frequently; the place seems to have a revolving door of over-40 career waitresses just gagging to be the next one to forget your fruit punch. I’ve never had an order come to the table without a hitch, and this last visit was no exception: They were out of quesadillas and lemonade, and the waitress forgot my cream of broccoli soup and put tomatoes on my friend’s sandwich, even though she specifically asked for none. But then again, if you’re eating at a diner, you’re not there for the service. You’re there for the basics.

“The basics” include burgers, which Broad Street serves admirably large and juicy alongside fries, pickles and coleslaw that I won’t touch, but that a friend of mine swears is the best thing since scrapple. Of course, I won’t touch scrapple either, but according to this same friend, the Broad Street Diner does it right, and theirs is perfect for a late-night craving, especially topped with a healthy pour of gooey fake maple syrup. Mmm.

For me, mozzarella sticks are a diner staple, and theirs are good, served with a marinara that reminds you you’re in South Philly and just a hop, skip and a “Yo, Adrian!” away from the Italian Market. And though it’s not exactly a staple, they do have Miller Genuine Draft and Miller Light on tap, along with Chianti, White Zinfandel and Chablis by the glass, though the wines were probably in a box just before they made it to your glass. Stick with the lemonade, which is tart and totally refreshing – and one of my favorite ways to cool off on a hotter-than-Andy-Reid-in-a-body-stocking summer day.

The décor is pure diner-chic: neon lights, mirrors filmed with residue from hundreds of cigarettes, fake plants hanging in pots and Delilah’s “Love Songs at Night” setting the mood. And although I’m not totally sure exactly what mood is being set, there’s nothing like a waitress with a thick South Philly accent calling you “hon” to make those mozzarella sticks taste a little better.

Leah Blewett can be reached at lblewett@temple.edu.

Josh Chamberlain

Diners: Deep plastic booths, interesting waitresses, 2 foot-thick strawberry pie, cheesy food at 3 a.m. and that lingering smell you can’t quite put your finger on; it’s almost never a dull time at an all-night eatery. After all, it’s hard not to have a blast when you’re eating fattening foods at an hour when no food should be consumed.

As far as what goes on in a diner during normal food consumption hours, your guess is as good as the next person’s, but high school and college students alike flock to these late-night burger meccas for cheap, late-night grub.

The South Street Diner is no exception, seeing a variety of college students among the flocks of voracious South Street pedestrians.

The diner’s tri-fold menu presents patrons with almost limitless options. It proffers foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and enough for every snack in between – not to mention a variety of Greek foods.

Hungry for breakfast? South Street Diner offers omelettes from $4.25 to $8.95 with every ingredient under the sun including their nova and onion omelette.

Not counting carbs? They also have hotcakes, French toast and waffles, including plain waffles, waffles with meat and waffles with one or two scoops of ice cream, $4.25 to $6.25.

Somehow wound up here at lunch? No worries, they also have cold sandwiches, club sandwiches, hoagies and a litany of items “From the Grill,” like cheeseburgers, deviled crab cake and eggplant parmesan sandwiches. Or try the Texas Tommy – a hotdog with bacon and cheese.

The house specialties list includes entrees like chicken croquettes with mashed potatoes and gravy, $7.95, and beef liver with onions, $7.50, because come on, who doesn’t want to wolf down a good bovine liver at 1 a.m.?

If you’re not into chowing down on the organ that filters toxins from the blood, the diner also has more stomachable items like buffalo wings, $5.95, and Italian foods like fettuccini alfredo, $8.50 or ravioli, $6.95.

South Street Diner’s Greek list includes items like gyros, $7.25 and moussaka which the menu describes as a “light fluffy combination of eggplant, ground beef and potatoes topped with a Bechamel Sauce.”

On my only trip to the South Street Diner, I had a simple bacon cheese burger platter, $8.40, with french fries.

I ordered the burger medium, but it came medium rare and still mooing, perhaps objecting to being separated from its liver.

The fries were good, but could have used more time in the fryer. I think if I applied my fork, I could have turned them into mashed potatoes.

The chicken finger platter, $8.95, also came with fries. The fingers were bland, but plentiful. One dip in the barbecue sauce perked things up.

The Boston Crème Cake was the highlight of the meal, until it wouldn’t disappear. The slice of cake was the size of a small eastern European country and is best served with the diner’s coffee.

The family-owned South Street Diner opened in 1975 and has been remodeled and expanded three times.

The service was good, but if you’re going with friends make sure to bring the dough, because South Street Diner doesn’t offer separate checks. And make sure to ration that liquid, only one refill on soda, iced tea and coffee with the purchase of a meal, according to the menu.

Josh Chamberlain can be reached at Joshch@temple.edu.

At Tiffany’s, the tasty fries will satisfy any potato connoisseur.

Gianna’s offers vegan alternatives to meat-filled diner menus.
Jessica Cohen

Cruising down Roosevelt Boulevard, one cannot help but notice a building lit up in hot-pink fluorescent lights. This is none other than the Tiffany Diner, a quiet restaurant in the Northeast. Open 24 hours, Tiffany’s is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of North Philadelphia.

Perhaps the charm of the Tiffany Diner can be attributed to the outdated, maybe even tacky, decor. Walking inside I felt as though I just flashed back into the ’80s. The decorations of choice seemed to be flowers and mirrored walls, with jukeboxes lining the countertops. The pastelcolored interior added to the ambience, as well as vases filled with colorful carnations at every seat, which were a bit awkward looking, as they are noticeably held down by sticky tape. But perhaps most notable were the Tiffany lamps, hence the name, which added quirk and color to the atmosphere. There were also two separate rooms where parties are held, decorated with stained glass and thick brown carpeting, which makes Tiffany’s a favorite for Northeast Philly residents looking for a place to hold a small party.

The menu was huge and filled with a variety of both American and Greek favorites. Breakfast is served all day long, with options boasting every morning food and pastry you could imagine. Carnivores will be happy to find several different meat selections as well as an impressive seafood menu. Some of the offered meals are even a bit high class for a diner, like the flounder francaise and veal scallopini, both for just a little over $10. The beef barley soup tends to be a favorite among diners for a mere $2, and the grilled cheese is highly recommended, running around $4. But the most amazing item on their menu, hands down, were the french fries, which won’t break your wallet, costing under $2. Crispy and always fresh, the fries could possibly be the best in the Northeast. If nothing else, the fries could be the one thing sustaining Tifffany’s popularity.

“Gravy fries are the best thing to eat there, without a doubt,” said sophomore Kathleen O’Brien, a regular Tiffany’s patron. “They’re affordable and really good – the perfect diner food.”

With the affordable prices and great food, you may be full by the end of dinner – you definitely should not deny yourself the amazing desserts or cocktails. The bakery had a large display at the front of the restaurant, with a dessert menu filled with everything from sugar-free apple pie to Greek baklava, both for around $3. The custard éclairs are so big that you should probably order them knowing that you’ll need a box by the end of the night. And the slices of cake are cut large enough to feed a small army. Even the simple ice cream sundae, costing around $5 for a whopping size, is adored by many, including freshman Sarah Beth Feinberg. Feinberg, who has been going to Tiffany’s since she was little, said the sundaes “match with the style of the restaurant – a classic dessert for a classic place.”

The service was impeccable and the waiters always had a smile on their faces. The Tiffany’s staff was like a close-knit family. Most waiters seemed to genuinely enjoy their job, which is a rarity at most restaurants. The bubbly staff only added to the already quirky environment.

The next time you need a break from the daily stresses of being a college student, regardless of the time, head to the hot pink diner on the boulevard. Order a big plate of fries and chat with the waiters. The Tiffany Diner is one of the Northeast’s hidden treasures.

Jessica Cohen can be reached at jess016@temple.edu.

Rosalie Yurasits

Now it may not have the cool comfy booths, the jukeboxes, the pink Formica counter with the swiveling bar stools, or the ’50s themed atmosphere, but there is one thing Gianna’s Grille does have – vegan cheesesteaks!

Gianna’s Grille, located on Sixth and Lombard streets, may not be an actual diner, but any vegan would agree that with the laidback atmosphere, the friendly staff, and appetizing food selection it may just be the next best thing. Not only does this restaurant specialize in vegan delights, it also offers all the regular favorite diner foods for the carnivores, like cheesesteaks, burgers, fries, shakes and chicken strips. But the restaurant’s main attraction is the various vegan options.

No more ordering a salad with a side of the “veggie of the day.” With vegan choices such as pizza, cheese fries, calzones, freebird steaks (mock-chicken cheesesteaks), veggie burgers and burritos, it is enough to make any vegan feel like they have died and gone to heaven.

You will also find the visit to be amusing, with Gianna’s creative food names and interesting concoctions. Sandwich names such as Chicken Run, BBG Freebird, Godfather, or Goomba would make any one crack a smile. You should not leave without trying a Gianna’s specialty such as Krabby Fries, Pizza Fries, or rock-bottom nachos, all of which can be “veganized.” Just one suggestion, although it may seem tempting to stuff your face, make sure to save room for dessert.

Gianna’s has become well-known for its desserts, all which are 100 percent vegan. Whether you are a meat-eating fiend or a strict vegan, everyone enjoys Gianna’s desserts. But you may find that when it comes time to choosing one, it may just be the hardest decision of your life. In fact, Gianna’s desserts have become so popular that meat eaters find themselves stopping by just for a slice of the delicious strawberry shortcake or the various cheesecakes. That’s right, vegan cheesecake. It is a vegan’s paradise.

Now I know what you may be thinking, this place just seems too good to be true – it has got to be expensive. Actually, you’ll discover the prices to be very comparable to a regular diner and find that you can have a decent meal for under $12. For those who don’t feel like leaving their house, Gianna’s offers free delivery.

If you feel like trying diner food with a healthy twist, or you just want to stick to your old-time meat favorites, swing by Gianna’s Grille. The only drawback that you’ll find in this mock diner is that it isn’t open 24 hours.

Rosalie Yurasits can be reached at Rosaliekick@hotmail.com


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