First Taste

Devil's Diner Misses on Breakfast Greatness in Tempe

When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

Restaurant: Devil's Diner Location: 640 South Mill Avenue Open: Over a month Eats: Traditional breakfast items Price Point: Around $10

Dominic Jones, owner of Robbie Fox's Public House, has said that he opened Devil's Diner, a breakfast spot next door to his popular Irish pub on Tempe's Mill Avenue, because he felt there were a shortage of places to enjoy traditional a.m. eats -- the kind of spot "your grandparents went to grab breakfast, a cup of Joe, and just hang out."

In theory, he's right. Devil's Diner is a traditional breakfast spot given its short-order breakfast menu items like flapjacks, biscuits and gravy, and corned beef hash. But its curious lack of tasty Emerald Isle fare (like a full Irish breakfast or an Irish toastie, for instance) takes it out of the running for being unique. And unfortunately, its choice to use average to sub-par ingredients in its dishes make most of its a.m. items passable, at best -- something Tempe doesn't need any more of when it wakes up in the morning.

It's no surprise that the best item on the Devil's Diner menu is the one that's homemade: the corned beef hash ($8). According to my affable counter-diner guy, Jones makes it himself every Tuesday. Not too salty, cut into long, thick pieces, and with a subtle amount of seasoning, the corned beef is served up in a bowl along with veggies and potato wedges, and topped off with an any-style egg.

The breakfast burrito ($8) was less successful. An average tortilla filled with packaged shredded cheese, scrambled eggs, a scant amount of pico de gallo, and flavor-starved sausage, was saved (somewhat) by a decent tomatoey salsa. A side of very dry potato wedges went untouched after the first bite.

True to a diner-style interior in a large city, Devil's Diner is a small and narrow counter-only affair -- the kind you would expect to be filled with lots of lively conversation and character. Unfortunately, it has little of either one. Its wall decor of familiar images of celebs like Audrey Hepburn and John Lennon seem to have come straight from the Acme poster store. On my visit there was no music playing, and aside from hearing the counter guy say, "More coffee?" here and there, the restaurant appears to have taken a vow of silence.

Here's hoping Devil's Diner has the desire to better itself as a worthy breakfast spot in Tempe.

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