Theres a new diner in the old Pizza Hut building on Arsenal Street.
Arsenal Street Diner is sandwiched between two national chain muffler shops. Theres no mistaking that the iconic structure was once home to a Pizza Hut. An article in the Times said that owner Phillip Kane personally had done major interior renovations, which we were looking forward to seeing.
We stopped by at lunchtime on a recent chilly day. Not only did the outside still look like a Pizza Hut, so did the inside. Aside from new curtains, removing the salad bar, removing some booth seating and perhaps removing some partial room dividers, the eatery did not appear to be overly renovated.
The diner is now one big room with nicely situated, attractive wooden tables. New lighting looked quite unfinished. All of the swag lamps in the room were shortened and held in place with plastic wire ties. Obviously the electrical cords were too long and no one knew how to properly shorten them.
But we werent necessarily there for the ambiance. Its a diner with a hook. The newspaper article said we could expect some waitresses that are really sassy. The menu continued that theme with phrases like Not responsible for attack servers and If you give attitude to the servers, they will give it back you have been warned and Have some fun with the servers.
According to the menu, breakfast items are served all day, the lunch menu is available from 11 a.m. to closing time, dinner is good from 4 p.m. to closing. Our server informed us we could get food from all three menus the dinner menu was now available at lunchtime.
Armed with that information, our threesome decided to order one from each category. We chose a western omelet with home fries and wheat toast ($8.79), a kielbasa sandwich with sauerkraut ($5.50) and, from the dinner menu, pulled pork barbecue entrée ($8.79).
Our waitress approached the table, pen and pad in hand. As we gave her our order, I gave her some light-hearted attitude to test her sassiness, but it went right over her head.
No reaction. No attack. No giving it back.
The omelet was warm and tasty, filled with onions, ham, peppers, mushrooms and cheese. We particularly liked that they used diced red and orange bell peppers rather than green. A couple of half-slices of melted orange American cheese on top of the omelet were an interesting touch. A decent and good-sized omelet.
The home fries, on the other hand, were disappointing. We would have accepted the fact that they werent sufficiently browned and contained little or no chopped onion characteristic of home fries, but they were cold.
We were hoping for thick-cut homemade toast, but it appeared to be standard bread from a bag with a scant amount of butter applied.
Kielbasa was a novel idea, a mild-tasting piece of the smoked Polish sausage grilled, sliced lengthwise and served on a basic hot dog bun. Could have used more sauerkraut it was just lightly sprinkled on top and the sauerkraut lacked that vinegar bite that you expect.
We noticed mac and cheese on the dinner menu and asked our server if we could substitute that for the fries that usually come with the kielbasa. She was able to arrange that, and we found the mac and cheese quite good.
The pulled pork barbecue from the dinner menu was really more like a lunch item, served on a hamburger bun with a side of coleslaw and french fries. The pork, seasoned and slow-cooked right there, was a bit mushy and rather bland. The coleslaw was tasty and had a nice consistency.
The best part of this dish was the fries cooked to a golden brown, nice and crisp and quite yummy. They were those seasoned fries available from restaurant suppliers that, personally, I like better than hand-cut fries.
When our server returned to clear our plates, I made a second attempt to have some fun with her, prodding her with some playful banter.
No reaction. No attack. No giving it back.
We had noticed that the place was cold as soon as we entered. Wed taken our coats off and hung them on the back of our chairs, but by this time, we had put our coats back on to keep warm.
We chose three desserts, selecting only from the ones our waitress indicated were homemade: dark chocolate cake with white chocolate ganache ($5.25), strawberry vanilla cake ($5.25) and red velvet bundt cake ($3.75)
Both the chocolate cake and the strawberry cake were very generous portions, sliced thin and standing tall upright, moist and delicious and nicely presented. The red velvet cake had cream cheese inside, but even that didnt keep it from being generally dry which, I guess, we should have expected when our server told us/warned us that it was yesterdays.
Lunch for three came to $40.23 with tax.
While the owner is making a noble stab at establishing his diner as a viable eatery, he has a few things working against him. The décor is a work in progress. The have some fun with the servers thing is a great idea, but it isnt working. The food is generally OK, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Workers have their favorite haunts for coffee and gossip in the morning before heading to their jobs. Kids will hang out at a particular diner after school because they know their friends will be there. Seniors will choose a diner because the food is decent, the service is personable and the price is right.
The diner was sparsely populated at the height of lunch hourthe day we were there. Its going to take some time and some good reasons to lure customers away from their established eating out routines.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: email@example.com.
Arsenal Street Diner
821 Arsenal St.
Watertowns newest diner in the old Pizza Hut building on Arsenal Street.
HOURS: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week
Western omelet was warm and tasty. Mac and cheese was quite good. Dark chocolate cake with white chocolate ganache and strawberry vanilla cake were moist and delicious.