And when you find one, you can go every Sunday for brunch or every Friday and Saturday late night or several times a week for lunch. The best diners do all the classics well, but win you with their range and versatility. The Greek diner near my college, for example, had addictive tzatziki and superb silver dollar pancakes and inexpensive pitchers of beer. Heaven.
Up until a couple of months ago Trio Restaurant on 17th Street in Dupont Circle was more than a good diner. I’d say it was the best diner in D.C. where admittedly there aren’t many. It had a wide-ranging menu with a lengthy list of changing specials that were well executed and drinks that say, I respect you as a patron. You could get exotics like liver, escargot, or lobster bisque or classics like a solid wedge salad, a great pulled pork sandwich, or the best Reuben in town.
BUT a couple of months ago a change of ownership marked Trio’s sharp decline. I noticed slipping before news of the sale broke, when George, the long-time owner, was simply on vacation according to staff. Instantly the time it took to get your meal doubled or even tripled and for some inexplicable reason they were out of iceberg lettuce. What initially seemed like a blip has snowballed and once the sale was reported it became clear to this regular that some essential kitchen staff had not survived the regime change. Possible efforts at “streamlining” or cost-cutting have been felt elsewhere. The page of specials now sports more white space than type, and I recently saw the most dilapidated truck out front delivering disintegrating boxes of sad-looking produce. That should have been it for me and Trio.
I have a philosophy about BLTs. Not too toasted, definitely with mayonnaise, more veg than bacon, and NO riffing. (Years ago, a break-up became very easy for me when I found that his restaurant’s BLT was served with Russian dressing.) I also believe that a BLT should cost no more than $4.95. Trio’s BLT costs $7.95, which I grumble about often, but still I order it because it meets my requirements and I get cravings. And that’s $7.95 without french fries or anything like that, just a spear of pickle and a plastic thimble of cole slaw. All this is to say that I was horrified at my recent order featuring crumbly B, browned L, and pale pink, mealy T, and sorry we’re out of pickles. I don’t know why I was additionally irked instead of grateful that it was half its normal size.
I’ll have to find somewhere else to have lunch a couple times a week. I look now to Stephen Starr’s Le Diplomate opening soon at 14th and Q Streets NW, serving brunch, lunch, and dinner. Maybe bistro is the new diner.