Thanks to Chef Payton Curry, life has returned to the belovedWelcome Diner,
which sat sad and empty on the corner of 10th street and Roosevelt for far too long. The infamous chef kicked off the first night of his three-month pop-up project to a packed house -- and a packed patio -- this past Friday night.
The tiny diner was glowing as people filled the nine seats in the kitchen and couples, friends and families snatched up seats at the candlelit tables set up outside on the grassy front patio. Others chatted it up out front waiting for their turn at the chef's offerings.
As a huge fan of Curry's work at Caffe Boa, I drooled excessively over the menu. My non-foodie boyfriend even questioned my sanity at one point and couldn't understand how or why I would be obsessing over a burger. (A Niman Ranch grass-fed burger with green garlic and foie butter on a potato bun, to be exact.)
Maybe my expectations were a little too high --- everything but the chocolate malt shake and the Diver scallops was, well, disappointing. Not bad, just a little on the boring side.
The fresh-pulled mozzarella with pesto was light and tender but the toasted bread it was served with just didn't do it justice. Same thing went for the foie gras and the lemon curd.
The purple fingerling fries were an awesome idea but were so dry I left most of them on the plate. The chocolate shake that they were served with, however, was ahh-mazing. Not too thick, extra creamy and full of rich chocolate-y malt. After one sip I totally forgave Curry for the fries and bad toast.
And then, the burger arrived. The one I had waited all day for. It was okay but to be honest, I've had better burgers and they didn't leave me out $12. You could taste the high quality of the meat but the boring bun fell short of impressive. To be fair, I also may have ruined it with the addition of a slice of pepper jack cheese which dominated the entire sandwich and masked any possible flavor.
The night was salvaged when the scallops arrived perfectly seared, coupled with a chilled vegetable salad of crunchy baby asparagus, colorful cauliflower and a light, tangy dressing. Definitely the highlight of the night.
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The one thing that impressed me more then anything that came out of the kitchen was the service. Our water glasses were never empty and the servers were genuinely friendly and happy. That is an extremely hard thing to come by these days, particularly on a restaurant's first night.
Welcome Diner is open Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and First Fridays from 5 p.m. to close. Check out paytoncurry.com for the daily menu.