The Classic Diner has always intended its name to be a little tongue-in-cheek. Most diners, after all, do not encourage customers to customize their eggs benedict order with a layer of ahi tuna. A similarly upscale culinary approach informs all of the "diner's" menu items, elevating roadside mainstays to the level of an upscale restaurant's choicest dishes. Apple sausage and turkey-pepper hash accompany eggs done any way, from scrambled to drizzled directly into an open mouth. Omelets arrive stuffed with a smorgasbord of fresh veggies. Fried jalapeños can be easily stacked atop char-grilled Angus burgers. Lunch, served until 3 p.m., ventures outside of the diner definition with parmesan-crusted chicken with saffron risotto and sautéed steak tips in a red-wine demi-glace.
Diners at Formosa Asian Cuisine certainly can't complain about a lack of choices: more than 100 pad thai, fried rice, and curry dishes fill the menu, which is organized into beef, chicken, pork, and seafood categories. Quite a few of the dishes turn up the heat—the Dragon & Phoenix tosses jumbo shrimp and general tso's chicken in chili sauce—and others deliver crispy textures, such as the deep-fried duck. Diners savor these meals and sip BYOB beverages in a dining room replete with tasteful touches from pale-pink seating and blond-wood accents to linen napkins folded to eerily resemble your favorite Beatle.
Made-to-order deli sandwiches, cheesesteaks, and hoagies filled with homemade tuna salad or first-cut corned beef anchor the menu at Not Just Sandwiches. But, as the name implies, there's more to the restaurant than meats and breads. Each day, cooks prepare homemade pastas, seafood, and soups as well as selections from a full breakfast menu, all of which are served in a cozy dining area. They cater as well, supplying get-togethers with steaming trays of chicken parmesan, meatballs in a homemade marinara sauce, and garlic mashed potatoes that can feed up to 30 people or appease the monsters in your basement for one more night.
At any hour of the day or night, patrons can slide into Darling’s Diner’s modern, orange booths and order breakfast specialties or homestyle lunches and dinners—many with low-cal and vegan options. The cooks whip up favorites such as club sandwiches and three-egg omelets 24 hours a day as an homage to the classic diners that tirelessly fed humanity’s ancestors. On the more modern side of the spectrum, they man a full bar that’s open until 2 a.m., mixing vintage-themed cocktails and doling out beers. The indoor seating’s cozy glow of warm pendant lights is juxtaposed by the patio, where diners can nibble on cheesecake-stuffed french toast or grilled corned beef reubens—with slow-cooked kraut on Kaplan’s Rye bread—in open air. In addition to its diner dishes, the kitchen is known for its Philadelphia-style cheesecakes, which range from classic to berry cuvee with guava.
Sam's Morning Glory Diner marries the aura of a small '50s eatery with the relatively modern trend of sourcing food from local purveyors. Chefs troll the Italian Market and Reading Terminal for the fruits, meats, and cheeses that go into gargantuan frittatas and berry biscuits. The time-tested breakfast sandwich is revamped on fresh focaccia bread, and seitan, a tender wheat-based protein, sneaks its way into faux-chicken cheesesteaks without anyone being the wiser. Flowers overflow from outside windowsills, and stainless-steel mugs keep coffee warm alongside sandwiches packed with prosciutto, roasted peppers, and pesto, like an incompetent lawyer’s briefcase.
Operating out of a rehabbed warehouse space in the Spring Garden neighborhood, Café Lift’s motto is “Brunch. All Day. Every Day.” Outside, the beautiful old stone façade is now punctuated by sleek, tall windows, while inside, patrons will find exposed pipes overhead, a dark wood floor and original artwork hanging on white walls. Café Lift is serious about its brunch theme, as it’s open only from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day except Monday. Eggs come in many forms: scrambled inside a breakfast burrito, baked into a vegetarian or sausage frittata, fried and served along with sautéed broccoli rabe, asiago cheese and tomato pesto. Varieties of pancakes and french toast round out the breakfast-leaning fare, and those looking more for the lunch side of brunch can opt for a panini (Cubano, sausage, veggie) or a salad.