The 2009 Best Of Menu

Food Essay | Written by Nathan Mattise

This was the first year of Diners Without Frosted Tips, so like every other blog on the ‘net, it’s time to commemorate things with our year-end list.

Diner food is (and hopefully always will be) the central focus of this site  and our first year-end list is no exception.  Presenting the best of what we’ve eaten in 2009.

The only rules:

A) The meal has to be eaten at a diner/breakfast place.

B)  This list is acknowledged as limited and subjective due to a regional limitation on the diners/meals I’ve been able to experience and the subjective criteria through which the “value” of a meal is judged.

C)  The meal has to have been eaten in 2009 but the review/article does not necessarily need to have been written/published yet (thus ensuring this is a true best of list since I’m not totally caught up on my reviews/essays).

Without any further delay, the Diners Without Frosted Tips’ 2009 Best Of Menu…

5. Homefries from Stella’s (Syracuse, N.Y.)

What was said: “This is the bread and butter of Stella’s (with some meals, literally). Their homefries are the single best I’ve encountered in and out of Syracuse. The style is very unique – not quite shredded, not quite fried, not quite whole breakfast potatoes. Onions are burnt in to give it some flavor, the grease level is about perfect (so a giant heaping portion goes down quickly and smoothly) and whatever combination of spices they use is perfect to enhance the flavor of the potato. They’re equally enjoyable plain, with ketchup or hot sauce, luke warm, with eggs, etc. I once ate a side order of Stella’s homefries with my fingers after they sat in a room for nearly three and a half hours.  Taste these things and you’ll see why I have absolutely no shame over that.”

Year-End Reflection: I try to always  to talk people out of Stella’s when they suggest there for breakfast. I think it’s a bit overrated (hence the 3/5 rating) but all that said… they have the absolute best homefries and I can’t deny my love for breakfast potatoes.

4. Garbage Plate from Henrietta Hots (Rochester, N.Y.)

What was said: I intend to compare the two contenders for best plate eventually (Tahoe’s and Hots) and this year I finally made  it to the second locale. From my first plate pilgrimage though:

…while it’s going down the food is absolutely delicious. The dog itself is unique from other dogs I’ve encountered but then if you add the proper condiments (the spicy mustard, chili and Frank’s are musts) it truly is a flavor party in your mouth. Frank’s and mac salad go incredibly well together, the chili/spicy mustard duo seem to compliment anything that’s warm and the texture when you can get a little of everything in one forkful is tremendous. It’s a must-take food pilgrimage.”

Year-End Reflection: I haven’t made a final decision yet on where my plate loyalties fall, but I do make it a point to find one everytime I’m in Rochester. The Garbage Plate Run for Spring ’10 has been marked on my calendar for quite some time.

3. Migas from The Classen Grill (OKC, Okla.)

What was said: (Well, nothing yet. I just visited this midwest gem within the last week. Let me say these will be very highly favored. Migas are scrambled eggs with fresh ingredients – potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, green chille, sausage, onions, cheese – that are then eaten with tortilla and salsa. At Classen Grill, that tortilla/salsa combo is clearly freshly made and it makes a huge difference [some of the best salsa I’ve ever had]. Southwestern diner cuisine needs to make its way to the Northeast; you can never have enough green chille with eggs).

Year-End Reflection: When I inevitably open up my own-diner in my mid-30s (after a failed writing career naturally, but my diner will have great web presence), these will find their way on the menu. Period.

2. The Old Tradition at The B’Ville Diner (Baldwinsville, N.Y.)

What was said: “I’m not sure whose tradition it is, but I really liked their unique substitution of biscuits with sausage gravy instead of pancakes, a muffin, french toast or regular toast.  The biscuits were just firm enough so that they didn’t sog completely under the heavy gravy and the inside was delightfully warm and fluffy. The gravy was fantastic (creamy with bits of sausage) and I even used them to doll up some otherwise pedestrian homefries (they didn’t know if they wanted to be crispy or soft home fries. They certainly didn’t want to be seasoned). The combo came with two sausage links and a large egg done however you liked as well. It was filling and a steal at the price.”

Year-End Reflection: I’ve gone back to the B’Ville several times and just can’t pass up the Tradition. With Diners Without Frosted Tips being centered in CNY for now, there has to be a CNY item on this list year-in and out. The Tradition is the best diner fare I had in the area this year, hands down.

1. The salmon and sour creme omelet at Les Halles (New York City, N.Y.)

What was said: “As for the food, how my girlfriend put it: “This is the best omelet I had in my life.”

She went with the salmon and sour cream omelet served with fresh fries and greens. The waiter even warned her some folks find it “too fishy,” but maybe our palettes weren’t developed enough. The egg was so flavorful, the sour cream and salmon provided a rich but not overpowering flavor.

From the bites I took I’d say she was right –  easily the most rich, delicious, flavorful omelet I’ve ever sampled. Even the fries were perfect (great texture, not greasy at all, didn’t even need ketchup) and this was a Sunday brunch. Bourdain himself warns about the lack of care to meals in this setting (fish on a Sunday brunch), so I couldn’t believe the quality of that dish.”

Year-End Reflection: If you ate something with any semblence of Bourdain, of course it’s one of the best meals you’ve had in a year.  I mean, this wasn’t even my meal (hence the photo where my girlfriend is enjoying it) and it was the best thing I ate all year. I should’ve asked Bourdain about when I had the chance, but I have no idea how such a simple dish (especially compared to what else I ate that weekend) could be so divine.


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