There’s a critic in town who’s even tougher than me. She abhors frou-frou affectations (speaking of which, when she dines at my house, she’s been known to bring her own mac & cheese, just to be safe). When you’re a seventh grader, white food is the most trustworthy kind. So when she declares that The Bad Waitress is her favorite restaurant — well, bring it on!
Yes, there’s mac & cheese on the menu, but there’s also what Lucy decrees the town’s best burger, and the beef — grass-fed from Thousand Hills Cattle Company — is truly tasty. It comes with a side of crisp taco chips and homemade salsa. Because the salsa isn’t white, I get her share, and it’s as fresh and fiery as the staff.
The place is called The Bad Waitress — as in “awesome!” — but also as a description of the almost absent service. You enter your selection on an order pad, pay at the counter, and then sit tight until it’s delivered.
More about the staff: They number 39, the website tells us (which probably include those of the owner’s nearby Spyhouse coffeehouses). Average age, 27; pets, 15; tattoos, 14; college degrees, 12; hobbies, everything from kick boxing (it figures) to fashion design, which figures, too. MCAD is right around the corner. As is Children’s Theatre, and on performance nights, all the booster chairs are taken. It’s a very kid-friendly place.
I wouldn’t exactly call it adult-oriented, however. It’s sort of stuck in arrested adolescence, with a décor of horror movie and sci-fi posters, Formica dinette sets and 50s lighting, accented by garage-sale ceramics and Kmart art.
Sit at the diner counter to gaze into the Holy of Holies, from whence that comes that burger, in company with other organic, local, and fair-traded viands. Yes, it’s good. But even better (excuse me, honey) are a couple of hot sandwiches, starting with a Reuben-gone-uptown (or Uptown, where 29 staffers reside). Its toasted rye reveals elite, unsalty pastrami and mild-mannered sauerkraut under a blanket of melted Gruyere, hold the mayo. Instead, a swell red-pepper aioli. Add American fries — oh, they’re good! — or hash browns for $1.50 and nudge Lucy for a sip of her chocolate malt.
Yet the grilled baguette hosting a filling of artichokes, sweet, oven-dried tomatoes and loads of super-creamy goat cheese is even better. OK, sublime. And that leaves a dozen sandwiches I haven’t even tasted.
Another thing that’s “bad” about the place is that you can have breakfast at midnight, if you wish, and what better time for an Eggs Bennie, Delmonico-style? The English muffin halves come loaded with thin-sliced ham and a pair of organic eggs that slump lusciously over the meat until you slash them open (can’t help it: It’s those posters) and let the yolk work its magic. They’re garnished with two long-limbed asparagus spears and a rich lemon-rosemary hollandaise (short on the lemon). What other diner can boast that, I’d like to know?
Eggs dominate the rest of the list, along with pancakes made from scratch, not Kraft, and a couple of salads just to say they did. The coffee, of course, is from Spyhouse, and fancy-shmancy caffeine drinks abound — as well as wine and beer, especially appealing at happy-hour discounts.
2 E. 26th St.