It isn’t every day that I come across a restaurant as bungling as South Beach’s Picnic, which bills itself as a “New York Style Diner — offering American greasy spoon food in a not so greasy spoon setting with a little bit of polish on it.” Huh? Despite a shaky concept that includes breakfast for dinner, I’d thought a dozen times about stopping on my way to the Publix nearby, but saved Picnic for the whole family. Who better, I thought, to help me sample sliders, corn dogs, French toast, pancakes, omelets and cupcakes? All I can say is, “Sorry, kids.”
Despite the surround-sound shrieks, we managed to hear our quirky waitress, who called us ‘‘hon” and “love” as if she had stayed up nights studying reruns of Alice. But this is no Mel’s Diner. The menu is more deep South than Big Apple, with items like biscuits and gravy, chicken-fried steak, deviled eggs and deep-fried Oreos, but the place also wants to be a nightclub. On weekends you can get bottle service with Russian Standard vodka and Red Bull for $100. We were there on a Sunday night, which I later learned was ‘‘feed your family night” with $7 combos for kids. No one told us, so we ended up spending nearly 90 bucks on a dinner for four that required me to go home and cook. About the only thing that could have made this Picnic worse is red ants.
Ambience: The former Sea Rock has an odd, do-it-yourself decor with white vinyl booths, Astroturf walls and black ceilings jacked with monster speakers and projectors used to blast movies so loud you’ve got to shout to be heard. The night we dined it was Lord of the Rings, which had my 7-year-old crouching behind me to block the beheadings, stranglings and torture scenes.
What Almost Worked
- A pricey ($10) trio of fluffy pancakes served with supersweet, maple-flavored goop and a choice of gloppy fruit
- A decent trio of sliders that was at least hot and not desperately overcooked
What Didn’t Work
- A turkey club sandwich griddled until black and accented with flaccid bits of lettuce
- The macaroni and cheese “spring roll” – a flabby, pale yellow tube that’s unappetizing even to look at, served with a milky Gouda dipping sauce
- French fries as limp as pasta
- Mini corn dogs with a thin honey mustard dipping sauce
- An egg sandwich served on a doughy English muffin griddled on one side only with a “sunny-side up” egg with a solid yolk and blackened edges
- Apple pie that arrived on a greasy pastry disk so chewy it required a knife to cut
- A peanut butter and jelly cupcake topped with a fridge-weary tower of frosting as rock-hard as the cake itself
- Wines by the glass that include boxed Inglenook
A Blue Moon served with a white-edged orange slice that looked left over from the night before