Going to Eugene’s Diner is like online dating. You look through the potential lover’s profile and social media, and start to get smitten with the successful career, good looks, and fact he has a dog and is a family man. You start to romanticize this seemingly perfect virtual stranger, and before you know it, office day dreams of your first date are ending in a white dress on a horse galloping down the beach.
Then you finally have your first date.
You discover he is 4 inches shorter, 10 years older, and 20 pounds heavier than his online profile indicated, and while some parts of the conversation are engaging and a handful of jokes are funny, he is a smartass with no social cues, and there’s no escaping the fact he is not the one.
This is what dining at Eugene’s Diner is like.
The pictures online set you up for a cool, laid-back, 1970s-sytle diner with towering sandwiches and greasy concoctions. The menu is exciting and unexpected, featuring dishes like a “Tv dinner” tray, a double cheeseburger, and French toast with caviar. Yes that’s right… caviar! The classic diner-fare has a fresh, 2020 facemask with elevated additions. Who doesn’t love a classic with a mature twist?!
Then the food comes and you realize it is not love at first bite.
The portions are half the expected size, the service is slow, and the price is too high. What could have been a match made in heaven is sadly nothing more than another fleeting experience.
Katelyn and I are brunch buddies who go way back from college; there’s nothing quite like become published Astrobiologists together to form a bond. I met her at this Port Chester joint the first weekend in March for one of our infamous Sunday Fundays, and while the company and conversation were 10/10, the food fell flat.
The interior design alludes to a 1970s basement, with lawn flamingos and upholstery that reminded me of my grandma’s couch. It is perfectly cozy and relaxed, and just bright enough to pay homage to classic diner while being dim enough to feel modern.
Getting someone to come over to take our order, refill our drinks, and bring our check was like pulling teeth, and required those awkward “hold that thought…. I’m trying to make eye contact…..” moments. We were waiting for what seemed to be forever for the food to come, and when it finally did, our fries were spilled all over the table. I drop and spill things every single day; mistakes happen, it’s no big deal. However, while we got fresh fries, I never got a new water glass and they mostly acted like it never happened with just a brief apology.
The speed and attentiveness of the service was epitomized as we waited for our banana pie to come. We eyed the premade servings in the glass case, and all the waiter simply had to reach in and transfer it to our nearby table. I kept saying , “but it’s RIGHT THERE!!!!!” in frustration for about 10 minutes before it finally came.
With that being said, all the staff were extremely friendly and nice. Perhaps Eugene’s just needs stronger management, more staff, or fewer seats.
As I was stalking Eugene’s online, I saw a massive pastrami sandwich that looked nothing short of epic, and knew that’s what I wanted. It finally came, and I wondered, “where’s the rest of it?” Thin, small slabs of rye bread held a skimpy serving of overly fatty pastrami. It was cold, the bread was no longer crunchy, and it tasted as though it had been made 15 minutes earlier. Our disco fries with gravy and cheese were lackluster as well, with no flavor and no texture.
The brussel sprouts saved the meal. They were roasted and coated with olive oil that was slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and oh so delicious. What made the side dish amazing and unique was the fact that it was topped with rice krispies. Not only did is pay homage to childhood nostalgia, but the cereal added a crunch and sopped up the sauce beautifully. It got my kitchen wheels turning as to creating a savory rice kripsy dish…..
To cap the meal, we order a banana pie that came deconstructed in a measuring cup. The presentation was cute and #instagramable, but there was too much banana, not enough sweetness, and the whip cream has an odd saltiness to it.
The total meal knocked us back $37 each after tax and tip. While that isn’t too bad for a full-out Sunday brunch, the quality at Eugene’s simply wasn’t good enough; $17 for a cold pastrami sandwich is a bit of rip off if you ask me….
Sunday brunch is about seeing friends and offloading the week, and the food comes second. While I was letdown by the flavors, service, and price at Eugene’s, that’s not what I’ll remember a year from now. Rather, I’ll remember getting to spend time with my brunch buddy and having a great time.