Friday, December 17, 2004

Rose City Diner, Arcadia: Underwhelming

If you are wishing for the good ol' days, the Arcadia Westfield Shoppingtown has really got you covered with two different options for your golden oldies dining. They have the predictable, consistent Johnny Rockets (always a fave) and another, the Rose City Diner. There used to be a Rose City Diner in Old Town Pasadena long before I moved to the area, I don't know what the connection is between these two.

Anyhow, tonight we decided to go to the Rose City Diner for dinner. They placed at a gigantic booth that would sit 3-4 people on each bench. The stroller had to park at the end of the table which seemed to impede the flow of the busboys and waiters. Not sure why they didn't just seat us at one of the smaller free-standing tables in the front of the restaurant.

The service was good. A guy would take our orders, or take our empty glasses and a girl would come back with the food or drink refills. Both were very pleasant and polite and checked up with us at just the right intervals.

We started with a lemonade, a vanilla cola (not a brand name beverage) and chilli cheese fries. The fries were interesting to say the least. They were $6.99 and the chilli had beans and peppers and big chunks of hamburger. It might have made for an interesting chilli, but I'm not a big bean fan and we both really like the ccf's at Johnny Rockets, so these were a bit of a let-down. I requested some ranch and ate some of the fries with ranch and ketchup. But we still ended up leaving probably close to half of them on the plate when we were done.

The vanilla cola was $2.50 and served in a large glass. The first sip with the straw was straight vanilla syrup. I tried to drink from the top but it was the non-brand-name dark cola. So I eventually resorted to raising the straw as I sipped, to get some syrup and some cola. Stirring did not help. I do not believe refills were available on the vanilla soda. Based on that and the inconvenient way I had to drink it, it did last my entire meal.

For dinner, Lori had a hamburger with bacon and an onion ring. The burger was served open-faced with an onion ring that resembled the volcanoes they used to make at Benihana... that is to say that it was really tall and she had to mash it down before she could close the burger. She ate much of it. I think she liked it, but she was getting full and wanted to make it look like we had eaten more of the chili cheese fries, so near the end she switched her attention back to that plate to pull out fries to eat with ketchup.

I had the Reuben. It came with a decent quarter pickle and some pretty decent coleslaw. The corned beef was good and they really piled it on thick. Most of the toasted bread stayed crispy, only a little was soggy at the end. The sauerkraut was also good, tasty but not overpowering. What prevented it from being a great sandwich was the almost non-existent thousand island dressing. I could see that it was there from the color, but it was used too sparingly in my opinion to the point that you couldn't always taste it. The other thing that kept it from being a great sandwich is that it cost $7.50. I ate all but the soggy bread at the end, eating the last of the meat with a fork.

The decor also seemed unimpressive for being part of the mall's new expansion. I think they were going for retro, but it just felt less inspired and flimsier than the Fry's that has the alien invasion theme. A weird touch, there were lots of those long toothpicks with the plastic colored strips at the end, the kind that come in your sandwich, stuck in the ceiling. But the ceiling was so high away that they were either done with a dart gun of some sort, or a ladder. The music was a broader mix then you'd find at Johnny Rockets, and a little bit quieter, but the balance was all wrong, it was overly bass-y, so even though the speakers were farther away in the high ceiling and it felt quieter, I had trouble hearing Lori and had to keep asking her to repeat stuff across the table to me. The tables all had the same mini-jukeboxes as Johnny Rockets.

Their menu has a wide variety, including a big breakfast selection, which is available any time. They also had some old fashioned shakes that sounded good but I passed on because of my pseudo-diet and the prohibitive price-tag.

So for two burgers, two drinks, chili cheese fries, tax and tip, they had us on the hook for more than $17/person. If I want to spend that much, I'll go some place with much better food like Hamburger Hamlet. And if want 50's kitsch and that kind of food, I'll go about seven doors down in the mall to Johnny Rockets.

Unless there's something about them that I missed, I give them eight months.

Fun fact... they have a $35 burger -- over 3 pounds of meat. Comes with unlimited drinks. Menu says it feeds six or one really big person.
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