Thursday, June 21, 2018
Dining

Restaurant review: Metro Diner in St. Petersburg brings nice breadth, breakfast all day

ST. PETERSBURG

Sit on the chrome and vinyl stool and close your eyes.

"Can I get a runner?"

"Need an over medium well!"

"No more biscuits!"

"Why your eggs look so pretty?"

It's the staccato patter of an American diner kitchen. Boisterous but unflappable, short-order cooks are a breed unto themselves.

At the end of June, St. Petersburg got a Metro Diner, the 13th in the chain born in Jacksonville in 1992. They aim to open 10 more by the end of the year, the Davoli family joining forces with ConSul Hospitality Partners (Outback Steakhouse co-founder Chris Sullivan; Hugh Connerty, the original franchise partner of Outback Steakhouse and former CEO of Outback Steakhouse International; and Carl Sahlsten, former president of Carrabba's Italian Grill).

Although each location is different — this particular one tucked into the spacious Hiro's Tokyo Steakhouse spot — they've got the idiom dialed. Black and white tile floors, jade Formica tabletops, a certain frenetic bustle and breakfast all day.

The open kitchen, at least so far, is a blessing and a curse. Workers, yelling at top volume, make you feel like you're in the thick of things, especially if you're sitting at the counter. It may speak to my own preoccupations, but it's fun to swing your legs and watch them scurrying. Some of what they're doing, though, isn't always what you want to see.

I watched a woman assemble a whole lot of pot pies: big scoop of brown glop in a casserole, handful of precooked meat cubes on top of that, patted out cap of prerolled dough on top of that. I watched a gentleman assemble my hot turkey plate by taking precooked turkey cutlets out of a bag and dropping them into hot water in a little mesh basket to heat up, shaking water off them before they were plated and gravied. Nothing reminiscent of Thanksgiving about that preparation.

In a couple of visits, I was more impressed with the breakfast offerings than lunch (although Guy Fieri was gaga for Metro Diner's meatloaf plate and the Pittsburgh sandwich — a serious kitchen-sinker with pastrami, fried egg, melted cheese and fries — on his Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives). Fieri, never one to quake in the face of excess, was also enthusiastic about something called Yo Hala on the Square, a too-much-of-a-muchness mountain of thick-cut challah French toast stuffed with brown-sugared bananas and cream cheese and then topped with blueberry and strawberry compote and hazelnut syrup ($12.49). Split four ways, Yo Hala has appeal, super sweet, puffy and dessertlike. But think of your glycemic index, for cripes sake.

Not that the Bissell Breakfast ($9.49) was abstemious, but I found it a good way to test out the eggs (scrambled, very fluffy), biscuit (tender inside but a little tough exterior), bacon (pleasant but not anything special), hash browns (crisp and buttery) and a short stack (pancakes have good loft and tenderness).

A bevy of breakfast sandwiches does a good job of juxtaposing textures and flavors, from a spicy honey chicken biscuit (very fun and lively, $3.99) to a Frisco sandwich that brings scrambled eggs with ham and cheddar on grilled sourdough ($6.49). And for more texture play, there are twists on French toast, from pound cake ($8.99) to croissant ($9.99) and cinnamon raisin ($7.59).

St. Petersburg is already a diner-rich town. Munch's, Trips, Skyway Jack's, Kopper Kitchen — I could keep going. Metro Diner has a ways to go before it dominates in any diner category like burgers, meatloaf or grilled cheeses, and prices are somewhat higher than some of the local stalwarts. That said, the menu has nice breadth and several appealing veggie options (even the side of sauteed veggies was not perfunctory).

Brisk and effective service, combined with plenty of parking out back and a pretty chalkboard of daily specials, may push Metro toward the top offerings on that increasingly competitive stretch of Fourth Street N.

Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter. She dines anonymously and unannounced; the Times pays all expenses.

   
Comments
Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

FILIPINO FOOD: WELCOME CHISMISHave you been to the Heights Public Market at the 73,000-square-foot Armature Works yet? It’s the buzzy food market in Tampa Heights with more than a dozen vendors offering up everything from rolled ice cream to Cuban sa...
Published: 06/20/18
Restaurant review: Chile Verde is serving up very solid tacos in an unlikely spot

Restaurant review: Chile Verde is serving up very solid tacos in an unlikely spot

ST. PETERSBURGThere are a lot of decommissioned gas stations across the country. Some have been reinvented, cleverly made over as upscale restaurants. There’s Big Star in Chicago, Elaia & Olio in St. Louis, Red Truck Bakery in Warrenton, Va., even Bi...
Published: 06/18/18
From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

I know we have three more months or so of hot-as-dog-breath Tampa Bay summer, but let’s start things off on the right foot with some frozen treats. Ice cream is on my mind after a recent visit to Disney Springs, when I found love in a perfect scoop o...
Published: 06/13/18
Five restaurants worth checking out at Disney Springs in Orlando (w/video)

Five restaurants worth checking out at Disney Springs in Orlando (w/video)

LAKE BUENA VISTA Disney Springs has swiftly become a playground or trial balloon for the country?s celebrity chefs. Art Smith, Masaharu Morimoto, Rick Bayless, Guy Fieri, Tony Mantuano, Wolfgang Puck and others are already on board, with names like ...
Published: 06/13/18
A hook-to-table food experience in Tampa Bay

A hook-to-table food experience in Tampa Bay

Going fishing is like doing your taxes. If it’s something you dive into just once a year you end up relearning the whole thing every time. Jake Whitfield eyed me, no judgment, and decided to cast for me the first time, my little wriggling greenback z...
Published: 06/11/18
Ceviche closing in South Tampa

Ceviche closing in South Tampa

TAMPA – The Ceviche restaurant at 2500 W Azeele St. is closing.Caledon Concepts, which operates Ceviche restaurants in Orlando, Tampa and St. Petersburg, said the restaurant’s last day at that location will be June 16."The expiration of the lease for...
Published: 06/08/18
Deal alert: Hard Rock Cafe has 71 cent burgers for its birthday

Deal alert: Hard Rock Cafe has 71 cent burgers for its birthday

SAVE THE DATE: HARD ROCK B-DAYOn June 14, 1971, the founders opened their own American-style diner in an old Rolls-Royce dealership and called it Hard Rock Cafe. They had a vision to combine music, memorabilia and all-American fare. Here’s a tip: To ...
Updated one month ago
Restaurant review: El Chapo Taco fills a need with fun, friendly Mexican spot in Gulfport

Restaurant review: El Chapo Taco fills a need with fun, friendly Mexican spot in Gulfport

GULFPORTWhat do we know about El Chapo, a.k.a. Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán? He ran the Sinaloa Cartel, even from prison, and first appeared on Forbes’ billionaires list in 2009. He’s 5 feet 6. He’s the father of 12 or 13 children. He has a talen...
Published: 06/04/18
Updated: 06/07/18
National Doughnut Day is back. Where to get free doughnuts, doughnut beers and more

National Doughnut Day is back. Where to get free doughnuts, doughnut beers and more

Believe it or not, Friday is already June 1, which means National Doughnut Day is back with sweet deals.The day was created to celebrate the Salvation Army’s "Doughnut Lassies," who served the treats to American soldiers on the front lines during Wor...
Updated one month ago
A look at how Tampa steakhouse Ocean Prime keeps its menu fresh

A look at how Tampa steakhouse Ocean Prime keeps its menu fresh

TAMPAThe executive chefs all fly into Columbus, Ohio. Before they step into the kitchen, before they sharpen a knife, they sit down and have a meeting, an open dialogue. They examine the whole menu: What’s working? What needs fixing? And then they ge...
Updated one month ago