The old Hess shoe store on Belvedere Avenue near York Road has been at least four restaurants over the past dozen or so years: Taste, Crush, Shoo Fly, and now Starlite Diner. Crush was my favorite of the bunch and I was very sorry to see it go; I particularly liked Demi, the small plates restaurant on the lower level. Taste was a bit all over the place--sometimes the food was good, and other times not so good. Shoo Fly was Spike Gjerde's attempt at a diner that had his local-only farm-to-table gimmick. The food was diner-ish, but prices were high and sometimes patrons want a damn lemon wheel for their cocktail. Shoo Fly didn't attract the hoi palloi, something at which Starlite Diner seems to be more successful. On the Saturday evening we were there, the place was fairly busy. Not hopping, as it was only 5pm, but more people came in as the night went on.
The decor is bright and funky, like a restaurant from the Jetsons rather than the streamlined chrome-tastic look sported by most other local diners. Starlite offers breakfast all day, such things as huevos rancheros and Oreo pancakes, plus a lunch and dinner menu full of trendy items like brussels sprouts and sliders with a couple of brief nods to diner food in the form of meatloaf and a roasted turkey sandwich.
Our party of four tried three apps, three items from the dinner menu, and one breakfast item.
We had ordered a lot of food, so we declined dessert from the display of cheesecakes and whatnot from the case near the front door.
The prices are right at Starlite Diner, at least for the food. The most expensive items on the menu both involve steak; a 12oz strip with frites is $24, and a 10oz strip with eggs, home fries, and a salad is $20. There's also a lobster club for $18. The rest of the menu averages $10-$12, depending on whether it's a breakfast or dinner item. The $3 Natty Boh draft seemed a steal, especially when compared to the cocktails. We tried the Vega ($11) and the Bellatrix ($9). While both were made with quality spirits, the alcohol was quite diluted by other ingredients and neither drink packed any sort of punch.
Service is....ok. It's not bad, but it's not good, either. The person who led us to our seats gave us regular menus, but not the drink menu. Our waiter filled water glasses then left. After a somewhat long wait, he returned to take our drink order, but as we had not received those most important menus, we spent more time waiting while he returned with them, and then again for him to come back to take our order. Later, our entrees arrived while we were still eating our appetizers. This was a problem noted in Suzanne Loudermilk's Sun review in early November and was still an issue in early December.
While I think Starlite will be more successful than its predecessors in that particular location, it didn't quite satisfy any of our dining needs. It should, however, be popular with young families (there's a kids' menu, and the decor is fun) and folks in search of a good burger (who aren't into Clark Burger for whatever reason).
Posted on Minxeats.com.