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Sep 29, 2007 08:43 AM

The New Saint Clair Restaurant.....gone

Nothing to recommend this place except for its standard diner fare and its familiarity---it's been there forever and it has been my fairly regular weekend sitdown breakfast spot.
Tomorrow, Sunday, Sept. 30 is its last day. From what I can gather, the owners are retiring, the space is being renovated and it will reopen as....not clear but maybe a bit more upscale diner. That's the word from a waitstaff person but not necessarily a person in the know. It's a shock, just because of its 'been there forever, will be there forever' sort of status. I hope this is happening by choice of the owners rather than being forced on them be external forces. But regardless, change doesn't have to be good or bad. It just is.

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  1. That blows. The St Clair was never a great place, but it was passable. Now it'll be all that much harder to sit down and have breakfast for under $15 bucks on Smith. Change -- whether good or bad -- has made it impossible to live in that neighborhood anymore (as I did for 12 years). Sure you can buy expensive jeans or a frickin' lether tote, but what about a sandwich or late night gallon of milk?? Thank god for Ziad's.

    1. I think I read somewhere that St. Clair was being taken over by the Carroll Gardens Classic Diner (aka Salonike) folks, who planned to renovate but keep a similar menu.

      5 Replies
      1. re: bklynite

        That info works---waitperson I spoke with said she would be working at Carroll Gardens. If true, this is good news---a place that I can use vs. a Walentas/Ratner/Boymelgreen yuppie joint I was fearing was inevitable that I would not set foot in.

        1. re: JonL

          Better than the yupped-out alternative to be sure, but I've always preferred St Clair's food to Carroll Gardens Diner (smack in the heart of Boerum Hill, thank you very much!). I've had some really lackluster -- and downright gross -- chow there (though admittedly they're as nice as can be).

          1. re: HankyT

            it's truly a travesty that St. Clairs is gone. every genre of restaurant has its own strengths, and the NYC Greek diner (formerly known as "coffee shop") is an icon that is almost extinct now.

            while i don't go there for "haute cuisine" - nor for "authentic ethnic" fare - Greek diners were the place to go for a BLT on rye, a cheap breakfast, and a Greek salad with fresh feta. and especially, a big bouncy red-naugahide booth framed with fake-woodgrain laminate

            St. Claire had a small Greek salad for about $4.95, if i remember , that had plenty of stuffed grape leaves, an abundance of hearty feta, and just the right seasoning to hit the spot. while it wasn't freshly made (it was refrigerated), it was what it was, and nowhere else could you go to get that.

            the new Carroll Gardens Classic Diner is an overpriced attempt to turn a standard Greek Diner into something more elevated. everything on the menu is overpriced, and for the same cost, you can eat at one of any number of finer restaurants on Smith Street or Atlantic Avenue. and the size of their coffee cups is insulting.

            the closing of St. Claire made me sad. it was what it was, and it wasn't pretending to be something else.

            1. re: korgy

              what a shame. i loved that place. the true brooklyn diner has become a thing of the past- replaced by tourist diners and bad expensive food.i agree that the other diner on smith is not good (how do you screw up an omelette?). Brooklyn feels less and less like brooklyn as each day goes by. if you need a real Greek diner go to astoria - Mike's is an institution.

              1. re: BklynFiumara

                Park Cafe in Park Slope is a good old fashioned nothing special diner.

      2. Has it reopened? It's looking nice from the outside.

        2 Replies
        1. re: lambretta76

          I passed by on the other side of Atlantic yesterday and it appeared that there was a lectern sort of thing in front with a menu. No banners or bling but it might well be open. I'll be curious to see if it is a clone of the menu from down the street. One thing that they do have at their other place is stuff like thick ham steaks (a good slab, nearly 1/2" thick though it's probably just Cook's brand or something). St. Clair was kind of limited.
          I need my occasional basic pig & eggs breakfast (had a really weak one recently at Trout/Gravy) so I'm not going to get all righteous about the good old days vs. the state of things in these days of modern times. I'll probably check out the new old new St. Clairs this weekend.

          1. re: lambretta76

            the "New St. Clair" is just another branch of the "Carroll Gardens Classic Diner" a few blocks up on Smith, and it's owned by the same person with the exact same overpriced menu. there is no relation to the old St. Clair except for the name. oh, and yes, there is one waitress there that was rehired from the old St. Claire.

          2. We tried it out tonight.
            GONE are the fishnets, the plastic lobsters, the booths with built in coat hooks, dazzling chandeliers, and family pictures. The space is modern and elegant with a giant flat screen tv (and homage to St. Clair the patron saint of TV perhaps?) nice lighting: feels more like a library than a diner though. What shocks one into reality are the black polyester clad waitstaff. Yes everything black poly, shirt, pants, vest, EXCEPT the unbelievably ugly striped polyester ties, even on the ladies.

            GONE are the great Greek specialties (see my profile for best meal): kolokithopita, Cypress spinach pie, 'way better than Junior's' cheesecake and the best chocolate pudding of all time. In their place: wraps and endless pasta dishes.

            GONE are the NORMAL portions: I ordered a tuna melt, he, a turkey burger deluxe. The pickles and coleslaw were good, but then the platters arrived. Wagon wheel sized plates with enormous piles of spoke sized fries. I could barely find the English muffin under the gargantuan mound of dry tuna salad. His turkey burger was the size of a normal plate.

            We also ordered egg creams (very good) and cheesecake (not bad). The cheesecake is creamy and flavorful although the crust is a dry chocolate sponge. My strategy: Eat the creamy part first, then dip the dry cake into the raspberry sauce.

            The best part of the visit: THE WAITRESS. You know her the fabulous one with the curly hair? She's still sassy and vibrant, despite the scratchy looking uniform and horrifying tie.

            The Verdict: It's not what it was, but it's a passable diner. Have an egg cream, sample the cheesecake, share a boring sandwich and chit chat with THE WAITRESS.

            5 Replies
            1. re: shindiganna

              I've visited twice with my children, and I'm pretty unimpressed.

              My omelette was toast-dry, and the otherwise tasty moussaka was strangely dried out on the edges, as if it had been sitting out uncovered for a while. My accompanying Greek salad had big chunks of feta -- and a big chunk of styrofoam. You read that correctly, folks!

              My children's meals were odd. The pasta with butter came in a HUGE dish -- more than an adult could eat. A good 1/3 cup of melted "butter" swam in the bottom. The hog dog plate had two hotdogs, served on a hamburger bun, naturally. The children's meals come with milk or soda. No juice in the restaurant, apparently. My non-milk drinking child made do with water. Jello or ice cream comes with the meals, and most are in the $7 to $8 range, which is kind of pricey.

              I could live with all that, but the service was unbelievably slow. There's also some kind of caste system. When I asked the water guy for my children's long-delayed jello, he gave me a fearful look. The waiter wandered over and reproachfully asked if I wanted my jello. Why, YES I DO. Dinner took well over an hour, even though the servers outnumbered the customers. Most of them looked stiff and frightened.

              I'll probably go again, because my children enjoyed it. But I won't go with any pleasure.

              1. re: BklnChicken

                I hope the block of inedible strofoam at least got you that thoroughly unsatisfying meal for free!

                And why oh why does every bar and restaurant need to be decked out with an enormous TV???

                1. re: HankyT

                  I didn't think to ask for a refund for the styrofoam! Given the state of the cheese, I thought it an honest mistake.

                  True about the TV. My last meal was enlivened by many, many repeats of Governor Nine's "apology." Pretty unappetizing.

                  1. re: BklnChicken

                    Styrofoam. Yikes.

                    In retrospect, a chunk of styrofoam might have improved the taste of my meal. I'm still baffled by the terrible tuna salad. I mean, how can you mess it up?

                    1. re: shindiganna

                      Fool that I am, I've been back a couple times, children in tow. The Famous Curly Haired Waitress makes all the difference. When she's on board, juice magically becomes an option, as does two flavors of ice cream on the children's menu. Food is served promptly and cheerfully.

                      But woe betide you if you get one of the other servers. On Monday I had an omelette and three identical children's dinners. It took AN HOUR AND A HALF. I had to wave my arms vigorously to beg for the childrens' desserts -- again. Once again, the servers outnumbered the customers.

                      No more! I will not be a fool for the decor. Adios, "New" St. Clair!

            2. Had hangover breakfast here last Saturday. Very prompt service, water and coffee repeatedly refilled (thank God). Had the Lumberjack (remember, hungover) and everything was just fine. I may have even tasted sage in the sausage or it was in my burrito from the night before. Prices were up from last visit but in direct correlation to the quality of the food. I'd go back for another Vitamin G hangover breakfast.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Ralphus

                Last night, hoping they'd worked out the kinks, we tried again.

                Sister Curly hair was not there, and we were greeted by a crop of new faces. The staff were very nice, and the service was good. Sadly, the food was not.

                I ordered the exact meal as last time: tuna melt with a chocolate egg cream. The wagon wheel plate arrived with french fries that looked like they'd been through the fryer for the second time, greasy and very dark brown. The tuna salad looked better: moist, better color and bits of celery. I was starting to feel a bit more optimistic. Not for long. Buried beneath and completely obscured by the gargantuan mound of tuna was a ROTTEN slice of tomato. Unfortunately it's vile juices tainted the nicely toasted English muffin and the bottom layer of tuna.

                Dear Hubby ordered a vanilla egg cream and a Mexican Burger Deluxe, which he described as passable.

                The egg creams and pickles were good but we're not planning a return trip...

                1. re: shindiganna

                  Yuck! I hope you complained about the tomato... I still havent brought myself to try the place and with reviews like in this thread, I doubt I will. Pity, I like that the window/doors all open up on a warm afternoon, looks kind of inviting that way.

                  1. re: Nehna

                    Personally, I cannot find any appeal to al fresco dining on a noisy, busy location such as the Atlantic/Smith intersection. But I've never gotten the urban street dining thing so that's just me.
                    I've had 7-8 breakfasts there since the reopening. I never had anything other than breakfast at the old place. As per the original post, I never expected much from them and never was curious about what the kitchen might turn out besides my basic breakfast needs.
                    The place is pretty much a clone of the Carrol Gardens Diner---I think even the menu is pretty much identical but I could be wrong. I've never seen anyone I knew from the old place. All the staff is pretty efficient but I'd hate to have to dress as stiff as they do just to work in a diner. That represents a black mark on ownership for its anal pretension (IMHO).
                    I've had no problems with basic egg & meat breakfasts although they all cost more than the old place. I've also been confused by inconsistent pricing---could have been weekend vs. week day menus? Not that I would accept that explanation----bogus and arbitrary. Could have been simple errors. I didn't feel like arguing the time I was charged light and I couldn't argue with the posted price all the other times.
                    Coffee cups are small but refills are infinite. Coffee may or may not be charged extra---I'm still unclear and, if extra, I'm none too pleased with this 'stealth' add-on. ('Stealth' as in "the menu doesn't say that it is included in the price so there is no dishonesty" even if one tends to assume that a breakfast 'special' would include joe.)
                    Yes, plates the size of manhole covers are absurd.
                    Bottom line? Shrug. I do not question the other posters' experiences. That sucks. But for my breakfasts it is what it is. If there were an old school diner in the hood without the upward aspirations I'd be there in a flash. Too bad the old, old posts on City Lights at Atlantic & 3rd were so grim that I couldn't be paid to set foot in there. Though I'm open to any new reports......anyone?