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STL: City Diner - horrible experience

We went to the City Diner on S. Grand tonight for the first time - four adults and my 21 month old daughter. We got there at 6 and only a few tables were occupied.

Now, let me say up front that my expectations were diner-level. I'm originally from Jersey. I expect sullen service and mediocre food of a certain class. I'm fine with these things. I am not fine with:

1. appalling, horribly slow service. 40 minutes to get our food, which wasn't very warm when it came out. Clearly something had happened with one of the five orders and rather than come out and explain that and offer what food *was* hot, they left the whole order under the heat lamps. waitress was absent most of the meal - we eventually had to ask the manager where our food was. waitress never offered drink refills or brought requested extra items (napkins and butter).

2. runny middle in my omelet (which I'm guessing was the order that was made wrong, since it came out underdone) and hash browns instead of the requested french fries.

3. Steak in husband's country fried steak so gristly and tough that it was inedible. Now, if it's a piece of meat my husband can't eat, then you know it was the toughest piece of steak that ever came off a cow.

4. Giant piece of fat in the middle of father-in-law's mashed potatoes. No, it wasn't a potato or butter. Yes, we tried it.

Between my husband's disgusting dish (we did complain; it was removed from the bill without argument and with apology), my underdone omelet, and the slowest, least attentive service known to mankind, we will never go back. Again: didn't have high expectations, but I also didn't expect it to completely suck. It's the first bad dining experience we've had since we moved here, and boy, it was a BAD one.

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  1. Wow! I have never been but always wanted to try - now I'm rethinking that.

    Besides them removing the steak from your bill, did their management have any other comments (about service or anything else)?

    1 Reply
    1. re: TwoPointers

      one really only went there drunk before bedtime or hungover before naptime.

      if y'only knew what city and mangia were (quite) a while back...

      I'd still only do it then, but that's for old times sake.

      courtesy inn or uncle bob's is still my favorite.

    2. your story does not surprise me. I am NOT a fan of that joint. It has dissapointed me on so many levels I can't and won't bore you with the details. If you want good diner food...go to Courtesy...it's a real diner...with good diner food. Uncle BILL's is over rated and they allow smoking (as does Courtesy)...the bacon is good there though. I also live Luvy Duvy's on Jefferson and Arsenal.

      1 Reply
      1. re: CheesemongersWife

        right - Uncle Bill's I should know that, but my Uncle Bob lives near there.

      2. you might try the Olivette Diner on Olive. It should be close to you since I believe you mentioned that you moved to U-city. It still isn't a greek diner from the East coast, but I like it.

        1. I've only been there once (for breakfast), but it was OK. I wouldn't return after that either.

          I second the Courtesy suggestion. Low end diner food, but that's meant in a good way.

          1. I go to the City Diner all the time (I live a few blocks away) and I while I'm not surprised by your experience I do want to let fellow Chowhounders know that a pretty good time can be had there.

            I think the main problem is being from New Jersey, a part of the country where diners are king. I too grew up in New Jersey (Hackensack) and I desperately miss my diner experiences everyday while I'm in the Midwest. There are just no equals. Even the Courtesy Diner pales.

            The service is horrible. They are all super nice, but super slow. And on the weekends the breakfast often does not come out hot. That said, there are some good meals (roasted veggie sandwich for me; liver and onions for my husband). And there Bloody Mary's and Mimosa's are super good and super cheap.

            We often go for a late lunch on the weekends or midweek dinner.

            I guess I really like the City Diner b/c there are so many types of people that go there and I feel like I'm part of a city neighborhood again. They also do not rush you at all.

            So while I wouldn't go out of my way to go there -- if you are in the area or live nearby it's not so bad.

            3 Replies
            1. re: tmontauk

              I don't think the main problem is that I'm from Jersey. I have certainly had my share of poor service and bad food at Jersey diners, and I no longer patronized those diners. The main problem is that the City Diner has poor service and a lot of substandard food. Food should be served hot; steak should be able to be chewed. Food should not take 40 minutes or longer to appear when it is diner food.

              All kinds of people go to Blueberry Hill, for instance, and it's in a city neighborhood-feeling sort of place, the servers are attentive and the food comes quickly and hot and is edible. This is not rocket science. (I know BH doesn't have the same kind of food as CD.) As long as people choose to patronize places like the CD and sit there forever waiting for lukewarm food without complaint, places like that will continue what they're doing because why not? No one's complaining.

              There's a lot of good food in STL. Heck, there's a lot of mediocre food in STL I don't mind eating. But I'll be darned if I'm going to sit and wait and wait for substandard food served carelessly. It doesn't have anything to do with being from Jersey - it has to do with my expectations being higher than that, especially in this economy.

              1. re: ladydisdain

                I wasn't trying to start a fight. I was just saying that City Diner isn't a complete lost cause. I've had some ok meals there and I live a few blocks away and that's it.

                And the Jersey comment was more of a statement "I can completely relate." I lived in North Jersey for the first 25 years of my life and I'm constantly searching and comparing food to those happy memories.

                I agree -- the service can be bad. It all also has been good. I just didn't want people to write it off if they were walking down Grand. And yes, I have sent back food there. And I've sent back food at Blueberry Hill. It's just an opinion. Nothing more, nothing less.

                1. re: tmontauk

                  Ah, the old "St. Louis Good" conundrum. The City Diner gets a pass (and is even defended) for having "OK" food?!?

                  I haven't been in a long time, but I have eaten there many times over the years and almost always left saying "never again." I would say 1 in 10 meals there were decent, but that does not make it a good restaurant.

                  City Diner stays in business for reasons other than the food (habit for some people, nostalgia for others, close to one's house?)