Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dining Out: Georgie's Diner

After the afternoon of booking I wrote about last time, my wife and I were ready for a nice dinner, and so we headed off to Georgie's Diner in West Haven.

We discovered Georgie's last fall, when one of our daughter's college friends recommended it as a place to have brunch after we gave him a ride back to New Haven following a visit. An old-school diner that traces its lineage back to the mid 1950s and New Rochelle, NY, the former Elm Diner was completely restored and reinvented as Georgie's (in honor of long-time owner George Anthis) in 2009. Along with the classic old-line diner atmosphere and menu are some special touches: the option to upgrade egg dishes to cage-free organic eggs; sustainable, locally sourced milk and cream; and extensive vegan and gluten-free offerings. That last is important to my family, because my wife must avoid gluten; it's the reason our friend originally recommended the place.

On our first visit, we had breakfast items: Banana Stuffed (gluten-free!) French Toast for my wife and classic Eggs Benedict for me. Both were delicious, and the French Toast, in particular, was sumptuous, topped with caramelized bananas and pastry cream and drizzled with caramel sauce... almost as much a dessert as a breakfast dish.

We were impressed with the rest of the menu as well, and vowed to return, even though it's a fairly significant trip from home. Sunday's outing gave us the ideal chance.

As I may have mentioned once or twice, one of the main draws is the range of gluten-free offerings. Increasing numbers of restaurants are offering gluten-free menus, or at least marking gluten-free items on the regular menu, but at most, the range of items is fairly narrow: limited sandwich choices (owing to limited bread and roll options), lots of grilled and broiled meat and seafood, and usually no pasta dishes at all. At Georgie's, on the other hand, you could look at the gluten-free menu and imagine you were looking at a comprehensively complete restaurant menu. Careful study reveals some gaps -- no bagels, for instance, and no breaded fried dishes -- but really every segment of a traditional deli menu is well represented, including toast and pancakes on the breakfast menu; an unprecedentedly big range of burgers, specialty sandwiches, and classic deli-style sandwiches; and a full range of dinner entrees, including numerous pasta dishes. The menu notes that gluten-free items are prepared according to Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program (GFRAP) standards.

I can't vouch for the quality of the gluten-free pasta (which can be variable), because neither of us ordered pasta, but it's hard to imagine pasta would be featured so prominently if they weren't confident it was tasty. Certainly the food we did sample was tasty: My wife had a classic roast beef sandwich on gluten free roll, and I had London broil with mushrooms and gravy from the regular menu. We each had a huge side of (vegan, gluten-free) fries, and my entree included a hose salad with a very tasty Greek dressing and a large chunk of roasted butternut squash. For dessert, my wife had the gluten-free cheesecake with strawberries, and I had the house made carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

In two visits, we've only scratched the surface of the menu, of course. I'm eager to go back at lunchtime and try one of the 8 oz. Pat Lafrieda burgers, and the next time we're there for dinner, I'll try one of the gluten-free pasta dishes, just for the sake of evaluating the pasta itself. In the meantime, I have no hesitation recommending Georgie's, both to fans of the classic diner menu and ambiance and to those who must avoid gluten.

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