Just like the saying, "One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch," one bad visit to a restaurant can spoil the review.
Anyone can have a bad day, and that is why I always visit a place more than once before reviewing it. But if one of those visits is really bad, and I know I may have just been there on a bad day, I still have to tell it like it is.
When I first tried Chrome Plated Diner a few years ago, I went on a bad day. But the cool little breakfast and lunch spot in the North Anthony Center shopping plaza didn’t go away and has gained a steady following. So I thought it was time to go back.
And this time, the folks there did not have a bad day. And I, in fact, had a couple of really nice visits.
One of the main reasons I thought Chrome Plated deserved another look was its owner, Torey Smith, who comes from good restaurant stock. Smith’s mother, Sharon Watson, has been cooking in Summit City eateries for decades. And Torey’s brother, Todd Smith, has made a good go of it at Trolley Steaks and Seafood and Main Street Bistro.
The influence of Smith’s family can be seen on the menu at Chrome Plated, too. The chili is Torey’s grandfather’s, and it is pretty much a perfect basic chili. It is meaty, not too spicy and not too tame, and it has the perfect belly-warming consistency. There is nary a flaw one could find with it.
And though Sharon doesn’t make all the pies anymore, her recipes are being followed perfectly, so they are the real stars of this diner. The Snickers with its chopped-up candy bar pieces and its towering peaks of whipped cream is about as good as any pie you will find in the city.
The chocolate cream is no slouch, either, with a thick, rich whipped base that can only be produced with some love. The best new pie find was the caramel-apple – a perfect standard apple with candied nuts and a super flaky crust that was drizzled with a rich, dark caramel sauce. Having it warm a la mode is really the only way to have it.
The only pie that had any flaw was the peach, which had a thick, cobbler-like top crust. Its peaches were too hard, however. I liked that the peaches were fresh, but they just needed to be riper.
Next to the chili and pie, the item I enjoyed most at Chrome Plated Diner was the appropriately named Ultimate Grilled Cheese.
Now this wasn’t a towering monster sandwich, but it was perfectly made. Buttery Texas toast had three cheeses sandwiched between it along with a layer of sweet, tangy barbecued pork. It was an oozing, dripping sandwich, so I needed a fork, but that was simply a minor inconvenience because it was so tasty.
I found it to be a much better choice than the burger I tried, the Patty Wagon – a third-pound patty with Swiss cheese and sautéed onions on toasted rye. The bread for this burger was also buttery and good, but the smallish patty was just kind of an afterthought.
The chicken in the Chicken Bacon Ranch sandwich was not an afterthought. There was plenty of breast meat that had been nicely seared on the griddle before joining crispy bacon, oozing cheddar and a touch of dressing on a toasty sub bun. It was just what I expected when I ordered it.
I would bypass fries with sandwiches and instead get the hash browns or American fries at Chrome Plated because the folks there do them right. Both were spot on – brown and crispy on the outside while soft inside – but I asked for my hash browns extra crispy the second time around and was glad I did.
Those potatoes also paired wonderfully with the Chromed Benedict. This dish is available only before 11 a.m., and don’t even try to ask for it after then.
Torey must run a tight ship because I was only five minutes late the first time I tried to have it, and my server refused to even ask the cooks if they would still make it.
The day I arrived early enough, the strictness of the kitchen reared its head again when I was told I could not have one half of my Benedict covered with sausage gravy and the other half with hollandaise. The dish is offered with either, but I was denied my request to split the two. So much for catering to the customer.
Regardless, the Benedict was fabulous. The eggs were poached to perfection, the hollandaise was rich and creamy, and the thick slab of ham resting on the toasted English muffin was tender and juicy.
Though the kitchen wouldn’t budge on some of those rules, my service was great at Chrome Plated Diner. My coffee cup never ran dry, the folks were friendly and the food arrived promptly.
I also love the looks of the place. It combines sleek styling – black carpet, gray walls with red booth and seat covers – with touches of days gone by. The music playing at the perfect level in the background is from the 1950s, and there are photos of old cars and other knickknacks from yesteryear dotting the walls. There is counter seating in the back and a nifty mini counter area right in the middle of the dining room.
It really takes you back to the past. But it did not take me back to the last time I reviewed this place. Those days have been forgotten.
Restaurant: Chrome Plated Diner
Address: 3434 N. Anthony Blvd.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday
Menu: Benedict ($6.95), grilled cheese ($6.75), chicken bacon ranch ($7.99), Patty Wagon ($7.50), pie ($2.95)
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Credit cards: Yes
Rating breakdown: Food: ** (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)
Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.