Last night, I got a sneak peak at Philco Bar + Diner, the latest concept by serial restaurateurs Randy and Tina Corbin (The Rossi, Little Palace, El Camino, Club 185) that opens today in the Short North. I must admit I wasn’t sure what to expect from a spot with “diner” in the name. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for an old-school, prefab stainless steel greasy spoon. There’s something wonderfully nostalgic in spots like that. But all too often the word diner translates to new spaces through kitsch, which in turn feels fake and forced. Not so here.
The atmosphere is clean—gray subway tile and walls, dark wood accents, greenish-yellow booths and stools that wrap around an L-shaped stainless steel countertop, and a few cake domes behind the counter that will be filled with fresh pastries from Eleni-Christina bakery. The simple ode to the diner vibe won me over.
The menu follows the unfussy suit with breakfast-all-day offerings, and sandwiches, salads and entrees available from lunchtime on. As homage to former tenant Philips Coney Island, there is a Coney dog on the menu, but everything else aims to be a twisted version of classic diner fare. For breakfast there’s The Traditional ($7) with two eggs, two strips of Nueske’s bacon and two Johnnycakes filling in for expected pancakes. Steak & Eggs ($13) is served with bloody mary aioli.
Last night, I was able to sample a few things off the tight list of dishes crafted by The Rossi chef Andrew Smith. A bite-size version of Johnnycake Sliders ($8) were topped with pulled pork and a Napa slaw welcomingly more smoky than tart. The spicy pickle mayo on Phillip’s Burger ($8) left the tip of my tongue tingling and made me stop to check and make sure there weren’t actual pickles hiding under the patty.
I look forward to coming back to sample more breakfast and dinner options, like Crispy Grits ($11) with shallot preserves and Citrus-Braised Pork Shoulder Pot Roast ($12). But I’ll certainly be returning for dessert. Southern classic, and usually more savory, Hushpuppies ($4) were given a sweet edge with a light maple syrup drizzle and powdered sugar. But my favorite thing was Melissa’s Chocolate Chip Cookies ($4). Made from Smith’s wife’s recipe, these were little dough balls of goodness just shy of being truly sweet.