T-BONE DINER

>> Wednesday, February 4, 2009

107-48 Queens Boulevard
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 261 7744


The T-Bone Diner on Queens Boulevard is known for two things: it's glowing, timeless neon sign and truly horrible food. Eating In Translation's article on the T-Bone hamburger is most telling because of it's photo showing what are obviously limp, canned mushrooms. But let's not forget that Newsday's review was downright damning, basically describing the T-Bone dining experience as a failure in every possible way. T-Bone has been positively reviewed in the Queens Gazette (proudly displayed in the entrance alongside fading photos of celebrities who ate here once upon a time). But a quick read of that "review" and you instantly realize that it's an ad, probably written, if not by the manager of the restaurant, then with him sitting right next to the author.

T-Bone is clearly popular with some regulars who don't eat anything, as evidenced by the constant stream of guys drinking coffee in a corner booth yakking on their cell phones. Whether it should be popular with anyone else is open to debate. I've been to T-Bone a bunch of times, the first time because I wanted to go; since then out of sheer desperation for anything open at 4am. But I guess that everyone deserves a chance, from scratch, to prove that they don't completely suck. So I returned to sample their fare. Twice. The first time just for standard diner food; the second time for “real” entrees.



TRIP ONE:
Bro and I got a booth right away and were amazed at how many people were here by themselves. I guess a diner is the most comfortable place to do that. But self conscious person that I am, I’d probably have just ordered in. Humorously, as we sat down, a woman at a booth near us flagged over a waiter to complain. Through the time-tested method of shutting up and eavesdropping, we learned that she was eating a Shell Steak. “I can’t eat this. It’s all fat. This isn’t what I ordered. There’s no meat here.” Another steak arrived, only to be sent back. Again, a fat problem. She ended up with chicken. This was not a good start.

Bro went on the cheap and only ordered a main course. But I’m a determined soul. Determined, in this case, to sample more than just one thing and then call it quits. So I started with a cup of Matzo Ball Soup (also available in bowl form). Bro hated it and predicts that a group of guys wearing black suits will soon picket in protest. I was no great fan of the soup, but it wasn’t quite as revolting as Bro made it out to be. Sure, the matzo ball was dense and hard, the broth was salty and cheap, and there were noodles in it implying that they just took the pre-existing chicken noodle soup and plopped a matzo ball in it. But again, revolting is such a strong word. Next up came the Mozzarella Sticks. As fate would have it, Bro and I swapped positions. I thought that they were terrible and he thought that they were pretty standard. They were too salty, the breading was just this side of burned, and the mozzarella was tasteless. Add to it that at $8, they translated to $1.00 per stick and I left feeling like I just got mugged.



So the starters were... weak. Happily, the main dishes weren’t bad. Bro ordered the Cheeseburger Deluxe. As with most diners, if you want lettuce and tomato and fries, you pay more. And it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great and T-Bone won’t be pulling any customers away from the Johnny Rockets around the corner, but it wasn’t bad. It was a cheeseburger. Nothing less, nothing more. And the fries were decent. Likewise, my sandwich, the Roast Beef Deluxe wasn’t anything to complain about. It had tomato, onion and Swiss cheese with the beef on a toasted roll. Bro even said that it was better than a similar sandwich that he had at a diner in midtown… not that that means anything. I ordered Onion Rings instead of fries for $1.50 more (again with the highway robbery). These were just okay. Not worth paying extra for. And beware the onion ring garnishes, which I swear were made the day before. Cold and soggy, I seriously don't recommend nibbling on them.

Also, I suggest avoiding the coleslaw, which was… vile.

TRIP TWO:
A recent trip to Virginia found me sitting near I-95 one evening by myself with no place to eat dinner except this no-name, totally deserted, ultra-cheap Mexican place. Or a Shoney's. I decided to try their T-Bone. It just might have been the worst T-Bone I ever had. Thin and dry and fatty, most of it's flavor came from having been bathed in peppers and onions. And so was born the test. Can T-Bone's t-bone beat no-name highway Mexican t-bone? I had to know.



Bro and I arrived one recent midweek night and began our journey into the unknown. My meal was, of course, the Broiled Large T-Bone Steak, served with mushrooms and onion rings. Interestingly enough, the onion rings were noticeably absent. Though perhaps that would be asking a bit much. I mean, when the waiter says... and I quote, "The steak is already cooked, would you like it medium well or well?" you just nod and smile and understand how it got on the table so soon after eating your small cup of soup. My well-done steak was fatty, tough, served with canned mushrooms, canned roast red peppers (served in a little plastic cup), grey canned string beans (grey beans?), and french fries. The fries were pretty good.

Bro ordered the Roast Half Spring Chicken with Dressing. Bro liked the chicken and doggy bagged that which he didn't eat. I thought that it was Sahara dry. But we could both agree on the sides: awful. The chicken was served with a stuffing that was pasty, gelatinous and bitter. The mashed potatoes were so bad that Bro flat out refused to have more than one bite of them. There were mixed canned vegetables, which were pretty... you know... canned. And canned cranberry sauce (can ridges and all). Now first, I don't mind good canned cranberry sauce. Ocean Spray anyone? This was not good canned cranberry sauce.

Our dinner was laughably bad. Literally, we were laughing.

Entrees come with a choice of soup or salad. Bro and I both chose soup. I had the Chicken with Rice Soup, and Bro went with the Matzo Ball Soup. We all remember what Bro thought of the matzo ball soup from last time, so I was just as surprised as you are. So what about the chicken with rice soup? I think it was made from a freeze fried package. It had that salty, MRE quality that restaurants rarely try to match. I mean, when do you get rice the exact same shade of yellow as the broth itself?

Oh. I almost forgot... terrible Mexican steak for $10 or terrible T-Bone Diner steak for $22? The Mexican place wins.

Okay. The humor of it all aside, T-Bone is an immense disappointment. Right by the subway, it should be more than just where people coming back from Manhattan at 3am and cabbies go for a quick snack merely because they have no other choice. I'm not asking that it be some gourmet haven. But how about being merely decent? Instead it's overpriced and tacky (one need only note that they sell T-Bone Diner memorabilia mugs for... FIFTEEN DOLLARS!?!). The rickety tables and boothes, the broken neon lamps, the fading art. These all expose a distinct need for renovation. An old diner that's kitchy is one thing. An old diner that's decrepit is something else. At it's best, I opine that the food was mediocre, and at worst...

Here's the thing. Our service was fine. Our waiters were very nice, very fast, and always smiling. My finger of shame points squarely at the owners and managers and the utter cheapness by which they run this establishment. Or maybe they just don't care. Frankly, I am now officially embarrassed to bring anyone to eat here, no matter how hungry we might be. And I won't return.

T-Bone is not handicapped accessible... lucky them.

1 comments:

Erica February 4, 2009 at 12:14 PM  

That's just so sad. I actually got out of the subway yesterday and remembered it was there, and figured I would try it instead of the Tower.

I am forewarned.

Honestly, as soon as they told you that they steak was already cooked - that's when you can just start cracking up. Although, I would be nervous about health code violations. Too much "Kitchen Nightmares" for me.

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