Today we welcome a guest forker, Tara. Tara, like me, is a self-proclaimed foodie. She’s been following Fork You for a while now and when she found out that the “cast” had dwindled to just me, she volunteered to help out. If all goes well, you may see more forks from Tara in the future.
I remember the Quarrier Diner only as far back as the early 1990’s when I got my first “grown up job” in downtown Charleston. Back then, before my employer relocated to the east end, my co-workers and I made it a habit to regularly visit different lunch spots rather than rotate just a couple of favorites. But the few times I visited QD back then, the nostalgia is the one thing that stuck out in my mind. I loved the art deco look of it then and I was pleasantly surprised when I finally made it back after almost 20 years.
Quarrier Diner originally opened in the 1930’s and closed its doors in 2001. It was reopened by new owners in November, 2011 along with the basement bar, now known as Timothy’s, that used to be known as the Tap Room. The new owners wanted to keep the art deco look and feel of the interior, and they definitely did. The original booths and soda fountain with stools are still there and you get the feeling of an “old school” diner when you walk in.
My first visit after the latest opening was for an office luncheon. There were 10 of us and we were seated in the back of the main floor. Though it doesn’t appear to be a place you’d expect to be served alcoholic drinks, diners in the main dining room can order from the basement bar, Timothy’s. A few of us ordered beers and glasses of wine.
Looking over the menus, I saw a few in our party looking at the menu and turning it over with a strange look on their faces as if they were thinking, “this is it?” The menu is somewhat limited, but for me, sometimes a large menu makes decision making very tough. The lunch menu is mostly made up of sandwiches, with a few appetizers and salads and a handful of entrees such as grilled salmon, fried chicken and shrimp and fries. A few of the people in our party ordered the soup of the day, which was potato, as a starter. All three raved about how good the soup was.
Other orders at our table (I unfortunately forgot to get pictures) included the QD Burger ($8.75 + $1.00 to add cheese), Baby Spinach Salad with salmon and apple vinaigrette ($8.50 plus an upcharge for the salmon), Jamaican Pulled Chicken Panini ($9.75), Black Bean Burger ($7.50), Club sandwich ($9.25) and French Dip ($9.25), with each having either fries or mac and cheese as their sides. I had my heart set on the Gigantic Corn Dog and was a little disappointed to find out they were out of them that day. So instead I ordered The Quarrier, which is corned beef, pastrami, Swiss cheese, cole slaw and QD sauce (kind of like 1000 dressing) grilled on marble rye. My sandwich was very good. I liked the combination of the coolness of the slaw with the warm meats and cheese. This sandwich was so good I didn’t want to put it down. But I had to put it down. I had to try the mac and cheese. I had read in an article online that QD’s mac and cheese was sort of their “signature” dish for dinner, when customers could customize it and add such things as bacon, ham, jalepenos, peas and other items. This mac and cheese was TO DIE FOR. The only problem with it was that it was just side dish-size. I actually thought about ordering a second helping, but I didn’t want the boss to think I was a glutton. The “mac” isn’t really macaroni. It’s a large spiral noodle with enough twists and turns that allowed for a lot of cheese to cling to it. And the cheese……. mmmm……It was creamy, well-seasoned and very flavorful. I went on and on about it so much that a couple of others at the table ordered some for themselves. My opinion is that QD should offer the mac and cheese with add-ins for lunch instead of just as a dinner entree.
My co-workers all liked what they ordered too, with the exception of one of the people who ordered the Club. She didn’t like it with “that kind of turkey” meaning with thick slices of a whole roasted turkey breast rather than processed deli-style turkey. Whaaaaattt??? I thought her sandwich looked really good. I also heard several favorable comments about the shoestring fries. Overall, we were all pleased with our meals.
After lunch, at around 2:45, we migrated downstairs to Timothy’s bar for a few drinks. At first we were told it wasn’t open yet, but a few minutes later the manager told us he was going to “play bartender” and open up. (Just for us! Thanks!) Plus they had a private Christmas party later that evening that he was preparing for. Timothy’s is really nice and cozy with several televisions on the walls and a bar with accent lights that really dressed it up. After a couple of hours and a few drinks later we were a little hungry again. This time we ordered chips and salsa and homemade potato chips from the bar menu. The chips and salsa were your typical run-of-the-mill-type, from a bag and a jar, but the potato chips were definitely homemade and were sprinkled with blue cheese and served with ranch dressing. Both were pretty much what we expected and were perfectly satisfying for what we wanted at the time.
I went back to QD for lunch about three weeks after my initial visit. I wanted to try something else before I forked it. We were informed by our server that the menu was changing the following week and that a few things on the current menu (corn chowder, quiche and the (dammit!) corn dog) were no longer available. This time I tried the Jamaican Pulled Chicken Panini and my husband got the Steak and Cheese hoagie with fries, at a whopping $10.50. The panini is described as having, in addition to chicken and provolone, a sweet pepper relish, which was intriguing to me. Again, I HAD to get the mac and cheese. When the food arrived, both sandwiches were very pretty. My panini appeared to have an ample amount of chicken and fixins. But when I went to pick it up, the bottom slice of bread was soggy. I’m fairly sure this is from the juice from the Jamaican pulled chicken. The sogginess wasn’t enough to turn me off, though. This sandwich is really sweet. I don’t know if the sweetness is from just the pepper relish or from the relish and the chicken both. It had really good flavor, but it was a bit too sweet for me. I applied a liberal amount of salt to it and it tamed the sweetness quite a bit. My mac and cheese was just as excellent as the first time.
The steak and cheese hoagie was bursting with steak, cheese, peppers and onions. It was steaming hot on a soft hoagie roll and was served with horseradish mayo on the side. It was a very tasty sandwich. The fries were nice and crisp too.
All in all, both of my visits were pretty good, though I believe the prices are a bit high for sandwiches and fries. Service both times was friendly, helpful and attentive. I will definitely go back to QD to check out their new menu or to at least have some more of that yummy mac and cheese! THREE FORKS
Before I begin this, I must confess that this was not my first trip to the Quarrier Diner but it will likely be my last. My first visit, while it wasn’t bad, I wouldn’t say it was good either. It was just, meh. I could take it or leave it. So when Ashley suggested for my first review we both dine separately at Quarrier Diner and write up our experiences I was ready to give the diner another go. That being said, I came into this hoping to be impressed but not really expecting anything.
Each month my girlfriends and I attempt to get away for an evening out. This usually entails some dinner and drinks. So Saturday night when no one could decide where to dine, a friend suggested the Quarrier Diner, knowing ahead that I was supposed to review it. We thought there being seven of us, I’d have a lot to sample. I phoned the diner Saturday afternoon and made a reservation, just in case one was needed. The lady I spoke with was friendly and quickly promised to hold a spot for us.
Upon entering the diner, I knew right away why she was so friendly. Other than two tables, we were the only patrons. This is a large, well kept space. A space one would expect to see thriving on a Saturday night at 6 p.m. This did not bode well for our coming dinner. We were seated quickly as the staff had prepared a table in the back for our party. The ladies at the front of the house were friendly and welcoming. It gave me a smidge of hope.
Our waitress greeted us quickly and promptly informed us that they no longer carried the corn chowder, “because the chef took it with him.” I took this to mean the recipe, not the actual chowder, but who knows. She also told us they were in the process of changing the menu so when they ran out of certain items they just eighty-sixed them. Therefore, they no longer had the chicken or beef skewers, chicken artichoke spread, black bean cakes and possibly the meatloaf, but she had to check on that.
Hmm, that didn’t leave a whole lot to choose from. Fortunately, one of my girlfriends spotted an appetizer menu from the downstairs bar, Timothy’s. She asked if we were allowed to order from that menu as well and we were. That menu consisted of typical bar food: wings, potato skins, chips and salsa, and buffalo chicken dip. We ordered our drinks which consisted of a cabernet, three pinot grigios, a chardonnay and a Riesling. I mention this only because it caused a problem later on. The wines were priced at roughly $5 a glass, which was actually a little cheaper than I expected. We also agreed on the buffalo chicken dip, chips and salsa, spicy crab and corn dip, and Jamaican jerk wings. Our server also brought out rolls and butter. There were about three rolls in each basket. They were a mix of a multi-grain roll and some sort of onion roll. Both were good but I’m unsure as to whether they were pre-made.
The first round of drinks was delivered correctly as well as the appetizers. The best thing I can say about the chips and salsa is that the salsa was obviously out of a name brand jar. Think Tostitos chunky salsa. The chips were also just average corn tortilla chips, much like the kind you get at a Mexican joint. My friend enjoyed her wings but the jerk sauce was a little too sweet for me. The buffalo chicken dip can only be described as tasting like hot, spicy mayonnaise. It was served with tortilla chips but there were no chunks of chicken to be found and it clearly did not contain cheese. I’m sure most of you are familiar with the traditional buffalo chicken dip that contains shredded chicken, cream cheese, hot sauce, ranch or bleu cheese dressing, and cheddar cheese. This was not that. All seven of us agreed that it was inedible. We explained the situation to our waitress and she kindly took it back. The spicy crab and corn dip was much the same, a spicy mayonnaise with a tiny bit of corn and crab, which tasted really fishy. That dip was served with overly greasy pita chips. They were obviously house made but the layer of grease glistening atop the chips prevented any of us from sampling them. That, too, was sent back.
Judging from the appetizers, we were none too excited about ordering dinner but onward we trudged. We ordered another round of drinks which was severely bumbled. Those drinking Pinot Grigio were served Chardonnay and the one drinking Riesling was served Pinot Grigio. I get it. They’re all white wines so I’m sure it is easy to mix up but there has to be a reason servers in other establishments don’t make this mistake. I guess, to me, it’s akin to mixing up diet and regular soda. When I waited tables in college, I always made sure to place the drinks in a particular order so I knew what was what. Once alerted to the problem, the mistake was quickly corrected. As I’ve said, friendliness and prompt service is not this establishment’s problem.
Given the limited menu items, we all made up our minds fairly fast. Three friends ordered the QDeluxe burger described in the menu as “half pound hand-selected chopped Angus beef, bleu cheese, double-smoked bacon on a brioche onion bun. Served with all the trimmings” for $12.75. It came with two sides. All three patrons chose fries and green beans. Another ordered the poached pear and tossed greens salad which consisted of “candied pecans, crumbled bleu cheese and poppy seed dressing” for $5.50. Two others decided on the pasta primavera which was billed as “chef’s selection of fresh vegetables sautéed in olive oil with garlic and fresh herbs tossed with your choice of provolone or feta cheese” for $10.50. I ordered the bacon wrapped meatloaf which sounded delightful as described on the menu with a Guinness demiglace for $13.50. I chose a side salad and green beans for my accompaniments.
The food arrived not quickly but in a decent time period being that it was supposedly freshly prepared. The burger looked good but did not appear to contain any bleu cheese. The fries were crisp but were definitely of the frozen variety. The primaveras also looked appetizing with a decent amount of zucchini, squash, mushrooms, onion and tomatoes heaped on top. All five friends were satisfied with their choices. I tried the fries, which as I’ve mentioned, were standard frozen fare but they were still tasty and crisp. I, however, did not get a chance to taste the burger but all assured me it was delicious and cooked to perfection. The primavera was overly oily and bland. It could have definitely used more garlic and perhaps a squeeze of lemon juice and splash of chicken stock.
Now onto the meatloaf. First, it was not bacon wrapped as described in the menu. It did have some sort of demiglace on it and consisted of two large slices. It was tasty but nothing extraordinary, just the average meatloaf you’d expect to find at the local Cracker Barrel. The green beans, however, were just like grandma makes. They were riddled with chunks of ham and were bursting with smoky flavor. Suffice it to say, those were gone in a second. The salad was an average iceberg lettuce, topped with cucumber, tomato and croutons. The croutons were house made but were not very good. They were greasy and soft.
The pear salad was something else, to say the least. I wish I had gotten a picture of it but with all the conversing and tasting it was nearly gone before I got a chance to even think of a photo. Most of the salad was normal, meaning the spring mix greens, candied pecans and crumbled bleu cheese were there. The pear, however, we could not be certain was there. There were two chunks of a purplish, citrus looking fruit. We passed it around trying to decipher its identity, daring each other to try it. Honestly, up close this thing looked like a raw piece of chicken ringed in purple. My friend and I took the bait and took a bite. Yep, it was definitely a pear but of the canned variety. It was mushy and just sad-looking. The pears, as the main part of the pear and tossed greens salad, was discarded.
One of the girls placed a to go order for her husband. He requested the QD rotisserie chicken, green beans, and corn. While I didn’t get to sample it for obvious reasons, it looked good. Other items on the menu included pork chops, trout, grilled salmon and shrimp, steak, and a house made macaroni and cheese that can be topped with a variety of different veggies or proteins including smoked sausage and chicken. They also serve prime rib on Fridays and Saturdays. However, given our experience I’d go in expecting to be surprised as it doesn’t seem they have much in stock. The diner also boasts Saranac root beer on tap which would entice me to give it one more try but I can get the same stuff accompanied with much better food at Pies and Pints.
I really liked that the employees at this place were so friendly but after dining there it leads me to think that they’re making up for sub par food. If this place really can get its act together and retain a decent chef, I think it’d be worth trying again but as is, it’s a no-go for me. TWO FORKS.
Based on our conflicting reviews, it may appear that Tara and I went to two different restaurants. But that’s not the case. We both went at different times of the day on different days. Our opinions are obviously based on our own experiences. Our reviews’ sole purpose is to put the public on notice of an establishment’s fare and to give an overall opinion. But don’t take our views as gospel. We encourage you to support our local businesses and check them out for yourself and form your own opinion.
Quarrier Diner 1022 Quarrier St. Charleston, WV 25301 304-343-5686