How to vastly improve a salad: add a fried egg.
Hell, many things would be improved by adding a fried egg. Piece of toast too boring? BOOYA—plop on a fried egg. That bowl of ramen looking lonely? KAPOW—fried egg to the rescue! Your plate looking empty? ...Because there's nothing on it? I know what would make that better—oh hell, IT'S A FRIED EGG.
The salad ($10) I ate during brunch with Greg, Kathryn, and Dan at Diner featured mustard greens mixed with pickled shallots, thinly sliced jerusalem artichoke, and bacon nubs tossed in a potent vinaigrette (perhaps a little too much of it, but I didn't mind) all topped with a bulbous fried egg, thankfully well salted and peppered.
Unfortunately, since I ate this about a month ago and they change most of their menu every day, the salad they're currently serving won't be exactly the same—but I'm sure it's awesome. I can still remember how good my salad during my first visit to Diner in 2008 was, and it was totally different from the one I ate last month aside from also having something pickled. Hell, it was awesome even sans fried egg. A memorable salad that's unique and well balanced is hard to come by. I don't know where else to get one. (Admittedly, I haven't been looking, nor have I tried to make one myself. I'd like to delve more into the subject of how a really good salad can fill me with joy of a higher quality than that derived from a really good slab-o-pork, but I need to eat more good salads. God knows I've eaten enough pork.)
Although I think it's best to try new things when eating out, I ordered the same entrée as last time: a cheeseburger ($13). It was important that I find out if it still held up as one of my favorites in New York City. ...It's "research." Also, I wanted a burger. A thick patty coated in cheese and topped with lettuce and fat rounds of pickled onions. Thank god for pickled onions: They provide the crunchiness of raw onions without the unpleasant effect of making my mouth feel like something died in it for the rest of the day.
The burger didn't strike me as full of butter-dripping goodness as my previous experience, but it left its impression as "excellent" for another reason: the mega-beefy and funky flavor, to the point of making me wonder, "What the heck did they put in this meat?" I obviously don't eat enough good beef. Kathryn likened it to steak-on-a-bun. This ain't no bland burger (it probably doesn't need the cheese), and it was just juicy enough when cooked to my preferred medium rare. The bun suited the meat and toppings well—I don't recall anything particularly great or bad about it. In addition to the awesome burger, the thick, crispy fries are great too. When I inevitably return to Diner, it'll be hard to want to order anything else.
If you prefer more typical breakfast fare, go for the country breakfast ($13). Like the salad, this is one of those dishes that might change from time to time. During our visit, the platter included scrambled eggs (well seasoned, woohoo!), biscuits and gravy with sausage, and a salad.
While Greg and Dan went for the breakfast plates, Kathryn went with the vanilla bean bourbon French toast ($10). But French toast on its own doesn't really cut it, so...
...she added a side of crispy bacon. Pork completes the meal.
The pear and cranberry scone ($4) filled with what may have been something lemony and a plop of something creamy was not particularly memorable, as I've exhibited in this sort of useless paragraph. It wasn't bad, nor great.
I tried a sip of Dan's Bloody Maria just for kicks, knowing very well I wouldn't like it. It elicited the common Robyn response: a face scrunch or two, after ingesting a half-sip's worth. I'm about 156% sure that I'll never understand the appeal of cold spicy alcoholic tomato soup, but I'm okay with that. I'm open to trying any alcoholic drink at least once, mostly for the purpose of being able to confidently put it in my "do not want" list, partially with the minuscule hope that I'll find something that I don't dislike too much. Unfortunately, I don't think that day will come until most of my taste buds have died.
Of course, my reaction has no bearing on how good the cocktail was. Unless it's an inverse correlation—perhaps the less I like a cocktail, the better it is to the rest of the world.