When the Metro Diner rode into town with all its Guy Fieri hype in tow, the residents of Altamonte Springs got rightfully jacked at the prospect of chowing down on down-home fare that promised to be, to use a Fieri-ism, off the hook. The awards, accolades and buzz garnered by the original diner in Jacksonville led to an expansion across Florida and into the Southeast, Northeast and Midwest in an effort to chase the chain dream. The Altamonte outpost, stripped of the fuss and glamour central to the space's previous tenant, Carmel Kitchen & Wine Bar, wholly embodies a sort of Depression-era feel – Formica tables, counter seating, checkerboard floor and all – which I unexpectedly found to my liking. The dishes, however, didn't exactly have us riding the bus to Flavortown and, OK, the Fieri-isms will henceforth cease.
Breakfast, on which Metro Diner's laurels have rested, delivers some of the more enjoyable eats, the not-great hamburger steak and eggs ($9.49) notwithstanding. The thick burger, desiccated to the core and nowhere near the requested medium, looked as though it was a parched victim of a fierce Santa Ana wind, with the accompanying biscuit an unfortunate side casualty. Roasted potatoes and perfectly poached eggs were, thankfully, spared the scorching.
From the griddled offerings, our charming, capable and good-natured server suggested we order the croissant French toast ($9.99), a favorite of hers. There was too much cinnamon in the batter for my taste, but other than that, the sugary croissant halves make a rich, buttery start (or dessert ending) to your day. Our server was even nice enough to bring us real maple syrup at no extra charge – it was a darker, more robust syrup as opposed to a more desirable golden or amber-colored syrup, but still, it was a nice touch.
Pecans, almonds and walnuts provided a nice crunch to the appropriately named "nutty waffle" ($8.99) – a Metro Diner signature item, and a fluffy one at that. Breakfast, by the way, is served all day, so don't feel weird about ordering the Egg McMuffin-esque A.M. Sandwich ($3.79) in the p.m. hours. A toasted English muffin with fried egg, cheddar cheese and Canadian bacon can be eaten any time of day.
From the list of lunch favorites, the Pittsburgh sandwich ($12.49) came highly recommended by said server, primarily because "it's fun to see people try to eat it." Indeed, the thick slabs of Chicago bread stuffed with copious amounts of pastrami, provolone, a fried egg and French fries really gave the ol' mandible a workout. If you're hankering for another substantial plate, the Metro pot roast ($9.99) is all about quantity. Quality, not so much. The braised beef was as dry as the hamburger steak, while the broth was like a liquid salt lick. It seriously gave us the shivers. The mashed potatoes were the only saving grace.
Look, Metro Diner isn't trying to reinvent comfort food fare. Rather, they're making a go of replicating the old-time diner by serving spiffed-up classics. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, but judging from the hordes who patiently wait for seats here, they do more than enough to bring them back.