by Alice Levitt
164 Porters Point Road, Colchester, 343-6789
When is a diner not really a diner? If you ask purists, an eatery doesn't truly qualify unless it's in a classic diner car. Strike one for Colchester's new Guilty Plate Diner, then. Rather than a vintage dining car, this restaurant is situated in the former quarters of a vintage, er, video store.
But a look of the photo at right shows that the Alvanos family, who currently own Burlington's Pine Street Deli and once also ran the Parkway Diner in South Burlington, know a thing or two about the great American diner. The checkered floors, counter and ’57 Chevy booths capture the classic feel, while photos of farm animals give it a more modern Vermont edge.
The food is a similar mix of old and new. I started the meal with a $3.99 garden salad with a pleasantly puckery, clearly homemade balsamic vinaigrette. But the update on diner fare reared its head in the form of the gyros and tzatziki omelette.
A Greek diner classic in breakfast form? Let me at it! The thick, fluffy omelette was well executed, with chunks of tomato and onion dotting it. But I was disappointed in the texture of the gyro meat. It was similar to meatloaf — so soft that it practically disappeared into the egg mixture.
But this wasn't as much of an issue as the tzatziki filling. On the plus side, there was no missing it. That's because there was so much of it that even after we'd finished the omelette, it coated the plate like thick, leftover bisque. That was better than too little of the tangy sauce, I suppose, but I think I would have preferred a few drizzles on top, rather than an eclair-like burst.
At least the home fries kept things crisp on the plate. I was also a fan of the lightly buttered and toasted English muffins.
When I wrote about the diner's opening, co-owner Michael Alvanos talked up the burger, so trying that was a given. He didn't steer me wrong. The never-frozen patty was thin but flavorful and reminded me of a homestyle take on a Wendy's burger, sans the weird square shape at the fast-food giant. The bacon on top was crisped perfectly, so that it melted in my mouth with a salty, fatty crunch.
But I don't know why Alvanos didn't make more of the handcut fries. Fans of Al's French Frys, get thee to Colchester. The potatoes, handcut and dark but suitably crisp, are the closest I've tasted to the Burlington-area favorite. And you get them with a pile of dill-soaked pickle chips.
Though I'm more of a frites girl than a Frys gal, I was impressed. I was less enchanted with the baklava.
It may boast an attractive sheen in the photo at right, but in reality, the dessert was surprisingly dry. The layers of phyllo didn't sing with butter as they should, nor was there much of a honey or syrup glaze. Worst of all, the pastry wasn't even crisp. There was a pleasant overall cinnamon-and-nut taste, but it wasn't enough to overcome the dessert's flaws.
But sweet stuff doesn't seem to be a major focus at the diner. If I want to start my day with sugar, next time, I'll order the chocolate-chip pancakes.
Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.