Warminster West Diner
The Street Road mainstay honors the best of diner traditions.
Sometimes there's a certain comfort to be drawn from uniformity, that all too banal American trait. But as much as strip malls or identical condo units can garner due criticism, we all share a love for those things that take us back in time, that make us feel like wherever we are, we're at home.
And that's what you get at any diner worth its salt flying the colors of Americana. Of course, they're not all as polished as Warminster West Diner, the giant flagship perched on Street Rd., just enough chrome gleaming from inside the red brick structure accentuated by parapet-like columns.
You walk past the illuminated case of baked goodies, the powder frosted, the jam resplendent as all the trays draw your eyes. The place stretches out in both directions. Squat stools line the counter to the right where sure enough, a milkshake is short order as much as a slice of pie lovingly retrieved by a waitress kitted with a truncated black apron and decked in crimson to complement the booth's plush seating, the sprawling design of the carpet.
The French onion soup, draped in a cover of milky provolone mingled with Swiss sweetness, harkens back to the awe-inspiring crocks I attacked with glee as a seven-year-old, the soup a marvel of the then newfound restaurant world. Perfectly caramelized onions raise the velvet touch of sherry I detect amidst the rich beef broth. The punctuation of every road trip of my youth, the turkey club indeed says I am traveling once again; the toasted bread, crisp as the bacon; the lettuce holds hearty, moist slices of turkey whose flavor mingles with plump, juicy tomato. The scant negatives here are that the mayo is a bit overused and the pickle seems past its prime.
A thin, crisp breading complements the moistness of a hefty chicken breast cloaked in creamy mozzarella and given a light bath of slightly spiced marinara that serves its purpose, the parmesan as rewarding as upon late night stops at a certain Northeast Philly diner following cross state collegiate ice hockey games.
The French toast drops before me as I'm wrapping up my turkey club, the juxtaposition hardly off-putting, even at 7 p.m., since breakfast food at any time-and in any state-is part and parcel, along with comfort food, of what diners are all about. Texture wise, it's spot on: the wedges, slightly browned, hold a solid frame that gives way to a plush, though never mushy softness. Cinnamon and powdered sugar dance on the surface, while my only wish is that the rich yellow of egg, along with the accompanying flavors, carried on into the interior.
A way off-the-mark Monte Cristo-open faced is vastly inferior to serving it deep fried-is forgotten via a hot roast beef mea culpa from our pleasantly diligent waitress. The Kaiser, with the appropriate density, soaks up any of the pleasing au jus that runs off the folds of bovine delight.
The fries, accompanying even the better-served-with-spaghetti chicken parm, are flavorful, crisp on the outside, though they bear too much of an unctuous sogginess on the interior, that, coupled with their dusting of starchy flakes, speaks too much of mass production, the lack of anyone in the back dropping spuds into a French fry cutter. Even worse is the disparity in serving; one allotment crumbles into overly fried destitution, a fate far removed from its brethren abutting the hot roast beef.
Misnomer or not, I'm taken by the "bear claw," an airplane hangar of a hefty pastry. Drizzled with chocolate sauce and coated with a dusting of powdered sugar, the crisp, doughy shell-think reinforced croissant-yields to an open amphitheater, quizzical at first-where's the filling?–until the crescendo of sweet ricotta reaches up to fill the space, the thick cheese about the bottom smartly flecked upon the roof of the pastry dome as well.
So many memories touched upon, my eyes dive back into the case on my way back out into the present, my mood simultaneously buoyed, relaxed. On the way back to the car, any critical leveling of diner food is forestalled by the feeling that, like some transitory tent, I could turn and all that stonework, that glistening chrome gleam, could be suddenly gone.
Warminster West is located at 333 West Street Rd., Warminster, PA 18974. For more info, call (215) 674-3646.