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Georgia Diner, Elmhurst


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Georgia Diner, Elmhurst

Eric Eto | Jun 15, 2006 02:27 AM

Back when I lived a few blocks from Georgia Diner, I would go there especially when I felt I haven't been eating a sufficient amount of vegetables. I would order one of their dinner entrees, and along with the soup, salad, bread and other overload of accoutrements, would arrive a metal holder with three stainless steel containers containing cole slaw, a bean salad, and a beet salad (probably the canned stuff, embellished with olive oil, herbs, and onions). There's something really addictive about this trio. My MO is to fill up on these salads, and take most of my entree home for lunch the next day. Then again, I'm always amazed that most entree items I order there is actually pretty good, at least competently made.

The best deal is the weeknight special (until 10pm), which for $16.95, you get soup, salad, an entree, coffee, and dessert (plus that bottomless 3-salad thingie). In order to get the 3-salad thingie, you have to get an entree, so something like the chicken souvlaki plate or a hamburger platter (both of which are also pretty outstanding as far as diners go) doesn't count. It has to be an entree. I usually vary my entree choice since I'm really only interested in that 3-salad thingie, and I want to see if there's a real clunker entree. So far, I've had things like the broiled halibut, roumanian steak, chicken parmigiana, some kind of stuffed chicken, and I'm blanking on what else. But there hasn't been a clunker yet... well, except for the side spaghetti that came with the chicken parmigiana. The sauce was really tasteless (it needed a lot of salt) and the pasta overcooked. I've been avoiding the other pasta dishes for this reason, but I'm sure I'll eventually be curious enough to order one. The thing is I've had worse versions of any of these dishes at "good" restaurants, so I consider it a small price to pay for some experimenting. At least I'm saved by the reliable salad trio.

First, the cole slaw at the Georgia Diner is the bomb, with the perfect ratio of cabbage, carrots, and more importantly the mayonnaise and whatever they use to sweeten it slightly. It's the prototypical cole slaw, and probably the finest I've encountered. No raisins, nothing to detract from its cole-slaw-ness. The bean salad and the beet salad might simply be considered afterthoughts, but when you put them altogether on a plate and you begin to find the pinkish remnants of mayonnaise, beet juice, oil, onions, vinegar on that plate, those flavors begin to meld into something above and beyond the sum of those parts. It's hard to explain. Then you have those nice contrasting textures. By the time I notice, I've eaten a considerable amount of the salads, and I grow concerned that I won't be able to eat anything else. But that's OK.

Nowadays, I only get to Georgia Diner whenever I make a run to Target or one of those other mall shops. I kind of miss ordering the chicken souvlaki platter (which was once my main reliable dish), because I have to get an entree, since I'm not sure how long I have to wait to get those salads. Before this post gets out of hand, I should also note that most everything on the menu is made in-house, like all their desserts in the twirling case, or their salad dressings (I like their simple blue cheese dressing). They also give you good extra virgin olive oil when you get oil and vinegar.

Which brings me to the other reason why I like to get that $16.95 deal. Dessert is included, and I almost always get the rice pudding. It is so straightforward, with no extraneous ingredients, but almost perfect in its execution.

OK, there's one more thing. While Queens might be one of the most multicultural areas in the world, sometimes you don't get the sense that people of these various ethnic groups share a common space, as many of their businesses and social relations are directed inwardly to members of their community and so forth. But what I find with the Georgia Diner is that common space among the many cultual groups that you'll find there anytime of day or night. As I've claimed it to be "my" main diner, it's a place that people of many other cultures seem also to claim. It's a little utopian vision I have.

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