Sunday, January 22, 2012

Restaurant Review: Starliner Diner

Starliner Diner, Front Entrance

Starliner Diner
5240 Cemetery Road
Hilliard, OH 43026-1501
(614) 529-1198
Tuesday • Wednesday • Thursday
9:00 am - 3:00 pm; 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Friday • Saturday
9:00 am - 3:00 pm; 5:00 pm - 9:30 pm
9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Closed on Monday
I've eaten breakfast at the Starliner just about every time I spend the night at Big Mike's home in Columbus, and it's become a habit for me - a very pleasant habit and one I hope never to break.

The place derives its name from the Ford Starliner, a fairly hot car Ford produced during the early 1960s.  You won't see many Starliners around today because, well, not many were made and those that were made generally got destroyed on the race track.  Starliners were noteworthy because you could actually get a tri-power setup for it from Ford, but the manifold and carburetors were delivered in the trunk and you had to install the system yourself, or get an ace mechanic to do it for you - and here my digression ends.

The Starliner is a modest place with two small dining rooms and a bar.  The decor is something best described as hot rod art deco down South of the border.  The colorful wall hangings, pictures and paintings are not overbearing, and if you've had a long night I suggest you rest your eyes on a menu or a waitress.  There's enough space between tables so that you aren't sitting too close to the folks next door, but the place really is packed as tight as it's ever going to get.  When you're seated it's best not to rise too quickly, as there is every chance you'll bump into a waitress with a full tray - and we all know where that's going to end up.

The wait staff at the Starliner are professionals, meaning that they make their living waiting tables.  The man or woman waiting on you doesn't have her sights set on a new job in six weeks as a dental hygienist, an English teacher or a stockbroker.  The concentrate on the customer and take pains to make sure everything is done right the first time and that the customers are comfortable.  What impressed me was that the servers, both men and women alike, have developed an energetic, purposeful stride that precludes interruption from obstacles such as children, chairs and other servers.  Whatever the waitress is carrying is going to be delivered now, right now - don't interrupt! 

The food at the Starliner is excellent.  You can have regular old bacon and eggs for breakfast, but I advise against it.  Get the huevos rancheros, the breakfast burrito or a Mexican chorizo omelette, and whatever you decide on make sure to get some plantains on the side as they are unusually good.

The only bad part about the Starliner is that the secret is out.  The place is packed fifteen minutes after it opens in the morning and it stays busy all day long.  This means that if you elect to sleep in you'll have to wait in line for a table.  The good news is that it's worth waiting for and the second a table opens up it gets bussed and people get seated.  Better still, if you have a large party of six or eight, the Starliner will accommodate you by putting several tables together, it being that kind of place.

The Starliner is not a bastion of fine dining that caters to the discriminating gourmand, complete with live chamber music, a discrete wait staff and indirect lighting.  It was designed to be a warm, friendly place offering good food at fair value complemented by above average service.  It succeeds at that.

In summary:
  • Ambiance: 7
  • Service: 9
  • Food: 9
Overall Rating: 8

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