French café or diner? You decide
13951 Biscayne Blvd, North Miami Beach
Hours: 11am-11pm weekdays, 9am-11:30pm Saturday, 9am-10:30pm Sunday
Price range: Appetizers $7.95-$10.95, salads $5.95-$15.95, main courses $12.95-$26.95
“Gourmet” is a word that gets tossed around a lot – gourmet burgers, gourmet frozen meals, gourmet dog treats – so expectations settled around typical greasy-spoon fare when we walked into the Gourmet Diner on Biscayne Boulevard.
One glance at the menu set us straight: Frog legs, escargot, béchamel sauce. French café disguised as diner. Ooh-la-la!
But could a silver-skinned railroad dining car with the familiar counter and open kitchen serve up French without “toast” or “fries” attached? Oui, oui.
Lamb shank, bathed in a fragrant wine sauce, melted off the bone. Mixed seafood in a creamy béchamel warmed our heart as it filled our arteries, though the slightly overcooked trout meunière didn’t quite elicit the orgasmic moans Julia Child uttered during her first meal in France.
Each platter comes with a choice of two sides including sweet potato fries, grilled asparagus, steamed broccoli and a vegetable souffle that was more of a salty mush. Ordinary diners tuck fries and ketchup into the takeout bag. The Gourmet Diner plops in mustard sauce and baguettes, perfect accompaniments for a divine endive and watercress salad.
None of this comes as cheap as typical diner food, but prices in many cases are a third less than a fancy French restaurant with snooty waiters. Here, the waitress offered us a seat and iced tea during the 20-minute wait she had warned us to expect.
This isn’t to say you can’t get a burger, hot dog or grilled cheese at the Gourmet Diner. But who wants that when sea bass provençal, baked mussels in garlic and cheese and leek and potato soup beckon at this diner with a French connection?
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