A little over a week ago Matthew, my son, Paul, my friend, and I went to Merritt Restaurant & Bakery in Oakland. I’d always wanted to go there, but I don’t like to drive, and driving anywhere near Lake Merritt or on 880 represents the most challenging kind of driving there is, so it was not going to happen unless someone provided transport. Happily, Paul took care of that for us.
Anyone who knows me knows I miss diners. Of all the things I miss about the East Coast, diners top the list.
Merritt is a diner in that there are booths and a long, plasticized menu, but I found the food to be average, at best, and tremendously overpriced. I was also annoyed that they had a one-stall women’s room. It drives me nuts when restaurants that pack ’em in are too cheap to provide multi-stall restrooms and would rather their customers wait on line to use the facilities. They clearly know how to charge here, so they might want to invest in a little convenience for patrons. Cost of doing business, as far as I’m concerned.
I ordered the waffle and 1 breast of fried chicken ($8.95), and added an extra breast ($2.95). The large waffle was good. Nothing to write home about, but fine as far as waffles go. The breasts were overcooked and dry. While the flavor and crust of their “famous” fried chicken was excellent, these pieces should have been taken out of the fryer sooner. There were no off-flavors, so the fryer fat was clean.
Paul duplicated my order and said his chicken was “a little dry.” He liked his waffle.
The side of cornbread we split tasted like chicken base or Kitchen Bouquet—something along those lines. Savory in an unnatural kind of way, if you know what I mean. I’m not sure how much this was, because we were not charged for it, but most likely something on the order of $3.
Matthew’s Fisherman Sandwich ($11.50) was supposed to be sole, but they said they were using tilapia. Matt said “OK,” figuring that, in the spirit of generosity that is at the heart of most diners—at this point we thought we were dealing with a real diner—and the fact that they were substituting a cheaper fish, he would get a nice sandwich. Not so. It was a lame affair lost on the plate. There was so little fish it wasn’t able to retain much heat during its trip from kitchen to table. Never again.
The iceberg side salad served with the sandwich was fine.
With one coffee ($2.25) and two iced teas ($2.50 each), the bill, without tip and without the side of stuffing, was $43.95. Please.
We should have gone to Nibs.