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The Diamond, Charlotte, NC - any developments?

Some time ago, I read that someone had bought the old Diamond Restaurant on Commonwealth and that he planned to restore it and bring back the real old fashioned diner feel with home cooking. Any word on that?

Also, whatever happened to the Penguin guys' plan to open a second locatin near the stadium? Recession kill that idea?

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  1. Pinky's? Thought that was open already?

    3 Replies
      1. re: nofaceplate

        Wait - is Pinky's the place being open by the Penguin group or is Pinky's in the old Diamond location

        1. re: hazardnc

          Pinky's is ex-Penguin dudes, the new Diamond is Penguin dudes.

        1. re: southernitalian

          Pinky's is definitely open. I haven't been yet but I every time I drive by around lunch it is packed. I can't imagine it's not delicious, and they're offering the same fried pickles they did at the Penguin.

          And I was under the impression the new Diamond was also the ex-Penguin guys.

          http://eatatpinkys.com/

          1. re: southernitalian

            I rode by The Diamond and The Penguin today. Both are still under renovation, and both look like they still have a ways to go. I'd expect them to open in 60 to 120 days.

            1. re: jla1960

              Pinky's is opened and it is a pretty cool place.

              1. re: jla1960

                My wife was in town this weekend and heard the Penquin had split with the main cooks and they were opening the Diamond. Is Pinkys a different group splitting off. I did notice they don't have those tastey onion rings on their menu?

                1. re: countgrog

                  Pinky's was started by one of the guys who opened the Penguin. He left the Penguin not too long ago before opening Pinky's. I believe he was the one who came up with most of the Penguin's menu items, as he had a background as a chef, and the other two were just seeking to open a bar before coming up with the Penguin concept.

                  1. re: countgrog

                    I haven't kept up with every installment of the Penguin soap opera...but, yes, everyone involved with Penguin, Diamond and Pinky's were together at Penguin once upon a time. Super franchisor Martin Sprock is involved with the "new" Penguin as well. Much local angst about it all is splitting supporters of each into seperate groups; I'll go where the food is good.

                    Pinky's does have onion rings on the menu, btw.

            2. The Charlotte Observer reports today the The Penguin will reopen on January 15. Rumor is that The Diamond will reopen in 2-3 weeks.

              30 Replies
              1. re: jla1960

                I read the Observer article. It's telling that the new spokesperson for the Penguin is out of New Jersey, & talking about their "trademark" fried pickles & pimento cheese, as they plan to recreate it as a national chain. I've lived in the neighborhood since 1983, and have seen many changes. The Penguin as it existed in the 80's & early 90's as owned by the original family was nothing more than a dive beer bar - and not in any good sense of the word. You went there for cheap beer, but not the food. You would never bring a date there, and certainly not your family. The only time I went there back then, was on a dare by a friend. It was that seedy. Until the recent dust up over franchising the Penguin, I didn't realize that the original family retained ownership of the building & the "Penguin" name & were only leasing it out to the guys that came in and turned it around. I remember seeing these guys inside, gutting it & restoring it them selves. They turned it from an eyesore into a hip asset to the neighborhood. It was their hard work that got the Penguin reborn & worthy of national coverage on "Diners, Drive-ins & Dives." But by not owning, they put themselves in a position where all their hard work could be taken away, uncompensated. I wonder what price could be put on taking a dive bar to a position where it could be franchised nationally. The guys that really did the work are getting screwed. Don’t get me wrong,. I’ve never really thought the food there was that great, but it was nice to see a local dive turned into something unique that became an asset to the neighborhood. And it’s sad to see the original Penguin family, aided by a franchising corporation to be able to come in and get wealthy by taking the hard work of others, simply because it is legal to do so. If the guys who took it over had not done so, the place would have probably been bulldozed as an eyesore. Personally, I wish the former management of the Penguin much luck at their new venue at the Diamond, and wish a swift death to "new Penguin franchise". It will be Mcdonalds, with fried pickles.

                1. re: Jibe

                  It's hard for me to buy into all the angst that others have over this. The guys who ran the Penguin willingly entered into an agreement with the original owners, and they obviously knew what the ramifications of that agreement were. Plus, to say they were uncompensated ignores the fact that place has been a license to print money for the past 15 years. I do agree that it will be sad if the Penguin devolves into crappy chaindom, but who knows...the whole franchising thing may fall apart, Martin Sprock may walk away, the Ballentines may invite Rowe and King back...and if not, people can vote with their wallets and go to The Diamond, Pinky's or wherever.

                  1. re: Jibe

                    McDonalds with fried pickles indeed. To see whats wrong with this situation, look at the new Creative Loafing. There is a full 1.5 page ad for "The Penguin (TM)" featuring the "Famous Penguin Fried Pickles (TM)". Wordy BS story about its history as a gathering place feeding locals for 50 years.....yeah nevermind the 30 years that it was literally the diviest bar in Charlotte as Jibe described above.

                    Sprock is supposed to be so smart, well if he was really smart he would've just bought the place and kept everything the same. Regardless of anyone's personal opinions about the Penguin, it was wildly successful. Why do the people with the money constantly have to mess with successful things? Greed at its finest.

                    1. re: billyjack

                      Ya and Sprock is the same guy who turned the Flying Biscuit into what it is now - mediocre grub and mass produced "charm". Guy is on the top of my Evil Food Dudes list.

                      1. re: nofaceplate

                        I was going to post the same thing, nofaceplate. Sprock destroyed The Flying Biscuit with his corporate chain business model and sadly The Penguin will meet a similiar fate.

                        Best of luck to the boys at The Diamond!

                        1. re: lynnlato

                          I ate at the 'new' Penguin last week and several of the things they were known for are no longer on the menu! to be honest i'm surprised they haven't been in the papers more because of the titles of some of the things that are on the menu are somewhat....borderline imho. Even the pickles tasted differant - not only to me but to other people in my party. We were there at lunch and they weren't busy at all. I don't see them staying open very long.

                          1. re: sbennett

                            So the food quality is already diminished? Wow, that didn't take long, did it? There is no way the Plaza-Midwood neighborhood will support it the new Penguin. The neighborhood is aligned with King & Rowe and so The Diamond will likely become, in effect, the old Penguin.

                            1. re: sbennett

                              Honestly, how much more can they be in the paper? What are the borderline things?

                              1. re: southernitalian

                                My wife is going to Charlotte next weekend and was hoping the Diamond would be open? Any word yet?

                                1. re: countgrog

                                  Looks like the Diamond has opened. My wife said that there was a line out the door last Saturday. I haven't been in so I can't report anything yet.

                                  1. re: Jibe

                                    Yep. it's open. They did not have their liquor license as of this past weekend, but I think they'll have it this week.
                                    And there have been lines out the door, unlike the new Penguin.

                                    I took a quick look inside, and it looks nice. It's got the classic diner look going. I look forward to trying it soon.

                                    1. re: ickymettle

                                      icky, let us know about your first visit since you'll likely be the first CHer to make it in. I'm hopeful that The Diamond will be everything The Penguin was... and more.

                                      1. re: lynnlato

                                        The mneu appears to be the Penguin + more, as it has just about all of the food offered at the Penguin + diner food.

                                        1. re: ickymettle

                                          ickymettle, maybe you can explain it to me. I have been to the original Penguin, the old diamond, Pinky's and IMHO the food is nothing to get excited about at any of them. When I see people from out of town post that they are excited to try one when they get to Charlotte I feel bad for them. Fair burgers, okay wings, decent fried pickles. basically bar food. There is a place for that for sure but what is the big deal? Is the Emperor wearing any clothes? Additionally I am sure the guys who ran the original Penguin are great guys and I wish them well at the new Diamond, but hey I wish the guy's at the Penguin success too. Granted I have no desire to eat there as they offer nothing that attracts me but I hope they do well, as I do anyone who opens a business in Charlotte. Success breeds success and the more restaurants that do well the better. Unless I'm missing something??

                                          1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                                            GFL - If you look at reviews of the new Diamond (or the old Penguin) on other sites, you'll see rave reviews that wax poetic about the food and then you'll see lots of people write things like, "What's the BFD?". I only went a few times and wasn't overly impressed but I could see the appeal. And then the whole drama unfolded, big local story, little guy stickin' it to the man, and the thing takes on a life of its own. The Diamond guys can rest on their laurels for a long, long time. Maybe forever. I'd say the biggest risk to them is that all the free ink the Observer gave them might turn the place into a tourist trap and drive out the locals. The the new/old Penguin guys are going to be viewed as bullies in Plaza-Midwood (and maybe they are bullies). Frankly, I think Price's Chicken Coop is waaaay overrated too but you get flamed if you say that in the Queen City.

                                            -----
                                            Price's Chicken Coop
                                            1614 Camden Rd, Charlotte, NC 28203

                                            1. re: southernitalian

                                              I dunno, I gotta throw in with the super-excited crowd and say I love the place. There's poutine on the menu - a first for CLT? And it's available either veg or non. And comes with friggin' pimento cheese instead of curds. And I can't not order it when I go.

                                              Pickles are lighter.

                                              Vegan meatloaf.

                                              Perfectly redone interior - stuff that needed fixing got fixed, beautiful, old Diamond architecture/colors were kept. Kinda weird they replaced the old Coca Cola sign, but hey.

                                              Most of what I've eaten thus far has been killer, junky, vitamin-less, good. The menu actually has some italian/greek stuff, which is interesting, and there's salmon all over the place. They're going to make so much money, and once they open 24 hrs on the weekends... I'm gonna get fat(ter). Ce la vie.

                                              1. re: nofaceplate

                                                I was curious what appealed to folks. Even they don't call it poutine, cause without cheese curds it is not poutine. Gravy fries with cheese, sounds tasty especially when half in the bag. While fried pickles to me is a waste of pickles and I like my meat loaf with meat, thanks. Anyway I think its great that you love the place as do many others and sounds like they will do fantastic - good for them.

                                                1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                                                  You're missing the point - the veg/vegan friendliness at the Penguin was a large part of its success and its gratifying to see it in effect at the Diamond, and Pinky's, as well. There's a real loaf on there as well - yay loaf for all!

                                                  1. re: nofaceplate

                                                    veg/vegams are people too. Well at least thats the rumor going around.
                                                    Peace to all and to all I say eat the loaf of you liking at the place you desire.
                                                    The more the merrier.

                                              2. re: southernitalian

                                                I agree about Prices chicken coop. They need to get innovative and try salt and pepper. The best chicken I had in Charlotte was a place on the Plaza called The Charleston House. It was delicious and they even served it at the all you could eat lunch buffet. Perhaps to many trips by GFL is the reason they are no longer in business. Too bad, they had great food and the best chicken going.

                                                1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                                                  This month's Southern Living magazine has a rare article about Charlotte. In it, among other things, readers are encouraged to get a boxed lunch at Price's and then drive out to the airport to watch planes land and take off. Swear. Oy vey.

                                                  1. re: southernitalian

                                                    Who would do that? That's just about the dumbest thing ever. Man, if that's all we've got to offer visitors to the "Queen City" all those Democrats coming in '12 are in for a big disappointment.

                                                    1. re: lynnlato

                                                      Where do you need to be from and what kind of boring life does a person have to have to actually think that sitting in a car eating bland chicken and watching planes land and take off is entertaining? What does that say about readership of Southern Living magazine?

                                                      1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                                                        Hey! My mother gave me the subscription for my birthday! They have some good recipes and they've steered us to some good spots when we're traveling around the south. They just appear to have gotten on the Price's bandwagon. Lord knows they're not the first. i wonder how long it will be before Jane and Michael Stern visit the Diamond.

                                                        1. re: southernitalian

                                                          Oops, sorry! It was a very thoughtful gift. Even with better chicken I take it you're not headed to the airport for some high time entertainment. Have you ever had the tried the fried Chick at Kings Table? I have not but hear good things

                                                        2. re: GodfatherofLunch

                                                          Funny thing is that is not the first time I've heard/read about that suggestion. Weird. We've got some pretty amazing parks and neat areas around town to sit and picnic - who the hell would head over to airport area? It's easily the ugliest part of Charlotte. Except, maybe, for the sewage plant in Pineville. But hey, why not grab some Dairy Queen dogs and go cop a squat by the sewage plant and take in the fresh air.

                                                2. re: GodfatherofLunch

                                                  GFL, I agree with yoiu. I mean, I liked the old Penguin. It had good food for when you were craving something greasy. But I agree that for the most part, the food was nothing special. Actually the main reason I liked the Penguin was the cheap beer and solid jukebox. It was a good place to hang out late at night, at which point I usually didn't even get the food (because they stopped serving it).

                                                  As far as the food at the old Penguin went, like I said it was fine, but I don't know why anyone would stand outside and wait to be seated. I used to go there and eat from time to time before it got really famous. It was a good place to grab a quick burger and beer. But when it got to the point where you would have to wait more than 15 minutes to get a table, it just wasn't worth that to me. I would often go to Common Market to get lunch on the weekends and see at least 30 people waiting outside to get in. I wanted to tell them, "It's not worth standing out here... you can probably get an equally good meal at the Dairy Queen just a block away for less and without the wait. But no cheap beer there, of course."

                                                  I remember one time within the past year, I actually walked into the old Penguin during lunch on a weekend and there was an empty seat at the bar. So I figured with no wait I'll get a burger and beer. There was a couple sitting next to me, and it was their first time at the Penguin. And they were so excited to be there. I really got a kick out of it. They acted like getting the fried pickles was like winning an Oscar.

                                                  Again, I liked to old Penguin and would recommend that anyone try it. And I really look forward to the new Diamond and plan on enjoying that many, many times. Some things just aren't worth a long wait to be seated, though.

                                                  -----
                                                  Dairy Queen Restaurant
                                                  814 S Dekalb St, Shelby, NC 28150

                                                  1. re: ickymettle

                                                    gotta love a place with cheap beer and solid jukebox.:)

                                                    1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                                                      I had eaten at the Penguin 5-6 times the last few years when I was in town. I liked it for the atmosphere, cold beer, good juke box and solid bar food. I usually don't want anything fancy and the karma of the place was right. I liked the onion rings a lot as well. I never really waited in line as I usually went at off times or lunch or the one time at dinner was willing to sit at the bar along the window. I look forward to checking out the Diamond on my next trip to Charlotte probably in a month or 2.

                                                      1. re: countgrog

                                                        I think karma is a good way to hit on the attraction. I only visited the Penguin a few times but seems like the kind of place where the whole was greater than the sum of the parts if you were in the mood for that sort of thing. My favorite item was probably the hand-dipped corn dogs (and beer). Although I do agree that waiting for extended periods to get a seat seemed a bit much--was it Yogi Beara that once said "nobody goes there any more, it is too crowded"?

                          1. Update - we were over in the area and my husband wanted to stop in. About 5 on a Saturday. It was pretty crowded. Our server was terrific. The guy that actually delivered the food to our table? Not so terrific. Accused me of ordering some fries that I definitely did not ask for. He actually argued with me for a while. He eventually agreed to take them off our bill. Good idea because I wasn't going to eat or pay for them. We got the fried pickles. We couldn't eat the last 1/4 of them because they were completely soaked in oil. They weren't bad, but given the fuss people make over them? Not worth the hype.

                            Another thing they need to address were the fruit flies. They were all over our table and I could see a woman at the next table swatting at them. Gross.

                            I love the way they have the place decorated. Almost all of the servers were great. But really, I don't think we need to go back there ever again. I get that I'm not there target deomgraphic, and good luck to them. But I'm out!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: southernitalian

                              I was there a couple of weeks ago for lunch on a Saturday and there was no wait. I also got the pickles which were fine but I honestly only ate about 5 of them so never got down to the pool of grease. I ordered what I used to routinely get at Penguin, the small-block burger, Southern style. The chili seemed to be a different recipe and oddly, a the whole burger was bland. I did order the fries and they were boring too. Though frozen at the old Penguin, I used to kinda like the crinkle cut fries -- and they were always cooked crispier.

                              Service was great at the Diamond, no problems there.

                              No rush to go back though...