Peel slowly and eat

This modern American diner is top banana

After all the hyperbolic, vitriolic, sometimes alcoholic words we had heard and read about Bananas (the diner, not the Woody Allen flick or the fruit), we were justifiably frightened but fired up to experience all this Mills Avenue joint had to offer. Would we find parking? Would we be served by a petulant trannie? Would the kitchen make us wait 45 minutes for chicken and waffles? After two separate visits, one for breakfast and one for dinner, all those burning questions were ultimately answered.

Eddie Nickell and Nick Oliveri, the owners of the Funky Monkey Wine Co., are the pair behind Bananas. The building's yellow facade reveals an interior awash in reds and blacks, mainly in the form of pleather and padded vinyl, from the comfy booths to the kitchen doors to the colorful ceiling. Photographs of icons Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and local drag-queen diva Danielle Hunter play into the diner's 'modern Americanâ?� appellation, and their classic diner fare offers enough twists to keep things interesting.

Sufficiently tart goat cheese ($8.95), for example, is crusted with panko and almonds, though we didn't really find the dollop of sun-dried tomato jam to be particularly necessary. Burgers are done 17 ways here; our choice, a perfectly cooked Caprese burger ($9.95), wowed us. It's certainly one of the better burgers to be had in the city, and we indulged in every bite of the Angus beef patty crowned with tomato, a sizable disc of mozzarella and basil-pesto mayo. On the side, onion rings ($1 extra) upstage soggy crinkle fries by virtue of their impressive circumference and cracklin' crisp coating. A beanless-chili-laden 'loaded dogâ?� ($5.90) was satisfactory, but didn't hold a candle to the one served by John Liotine ' the guy who, until recently, sold hot dogs from his wiener-shaped vehicle parked on Colonial Drive and Ferncreek Avenue.

No, our consummately courteous and polite waiter wasn't a cross-dresser, but he did inform us that the chicken and waffles ($12.95) would take awhile to prepare. Yes, 45 minutes, but we had nowhere else to go. What we got was a superbly crispy breast and thigh lathered in white sausage gravy, and a quartet of waffles done just right. We would've preferred the chicken to be seasoned a bit more, but if you're ever craving a plateful of awesome late-night drunk food, this is your dish. Bananas is open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays, and hungry revelers have been known to pop in after 2 a.m.

For breakfast, too much cream cheese and not enough strawberry filling had us regretting the order of stuffed French toast ($5.99); but a thin hollandaise sauce was the only fault in an otherwise decent eggs Benedict ($8.99), served with Canadian bacon and diced home fries.

For the most part, desserts come in liquid or cake form: Hand-spun milkshakes ($6.99), like the 'Happy Daysâ?� with cookie dough ice cream and chocolate chip cookies, are an overly decadent way to end any breakfast, lunch or dinner. I was disheartened at the complete lack of pies in the display case, but the coconut cake tangy with Key lime ($4.99) was a conciliating crustless capper.

And the parking? For a diner that prides itself on being decidedly quirky and queer, it's no surprise that finding a spot here can be a drag.

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