Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Philadelphia >
Sep 15, 2011 08:18 AM

Conshohocken’s 401 Diner

Has anyone been there yet?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. re: Buckethead

      I thought it had opened this week!

      1. re: DaisyM

        It was supposed to, but I haven't seen any activity inside.

          1. re: jujuthomas

            wow, i will miss the old service (sarcasm)...this has great potential!

      1. TL;DR version: new fancied-up eat-local diner that has friendly, inexperienced service and unevenly executed food with an emphasis in imbalanced seasoning.

        Went here last night for the cash-only 401 Diner's official opening with my partner and ordered: cheddar grits, a side of sausage gravy and biscuits, antipasto salad, a special-order turkey sausage and aged white cheddar omelet with a latke, apple juice, and a virgin Mary. The restaurant looked to be about half-full and the young owner stopped by to ask us about our meal near the end. It's clearly been remodeled and had lovely new wooden furniture and adorable coat hooks by the booths where we were seated.

        We were seated after a couple of minutes of waiting and our server came to ask us about drinks five minutes after being seated. We ordered our waters and drinks. The server looked unsure about the virgin Mary, so much so that I said I could either make it myself or not order it. Although he asked the manager to talk with the kitchen, the virgin Mary never made an appearance, but the server did apologize. The apple juice was very sweet at first taste, but quickly mellowed and lightened in flavor. It was very refreshing.

        The menu has a limited, but nice selection of diner favorites with an upscale cast. There's an emphasis on fresh and local which I appreciate. There are quite a few repeats bulking out the menu such as the same variation executed slightly differently - eg, Thanksgiving on a sandwich or on a plate, salami with fennel in omelets or with scrambled eggs.The descriptions were enticing and there were few typos on the menu. We were excited by the thought of sausage gravy and biscuits (seen with their eggs Benedict, as a chicken and biscuits dinner platter, and as a side). It seemed like there was a number of vegetarian options for breakfast, but not for dinner.

        Our food came out promptly even as the diner was filling up with patrons. The runners with the food seemed to be inexperienced, but polite and eager. Our expectations were different than what we saw presented to us. This is not to say that our food was bad, but just that it was different. However, while the presentation differed from our expectations, the execution was uneven.

        The grits were creamy and buttery with a light cheddar flavor, but were undercooked and slightly undersalted. The latke, although crispy, was sitting in a pool of at least a tablespoon's worth of oil and was also underseasoned. The omelet was, in my partner's words, "fine." The side of sausage and biscuits was not what we expected at all. While the biscuits tasted like they were made in-house and were well-buttered, the gravy was a thin brown sauce that had a lot of ground sausage (that might have been first boiled and then thrown in the gravy given its texture) and was over-peppered. We had assumed that it would be a creamy thick white gravy with flecks of pepper and fried sausage crumbles. Although not unpleasant, the seasoning was imbalanced.

        The antipasto salad was a bowl of a "spring mix" of lettuces, a small sliced ball of fresh mozzarella, four doubled rolls of salami, raw sliced mushrooms that had been lightly marinated (I would have preferred more marination time), several strips of roasted red pepper, and three pitted, probably kalamata, olives, all very lightly dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. While I appreciate the lightness of the salad, I had expected more marinated vegetables in the more traditional style of antipasti. I think the dressing had a higher proportion of vinegar to oil and would say that the salad while not underdressed, was also lacking in salt and pepper.

        When the owner stopped by and asked, I couldn't disguise my reaction to the okay food and mentioned the unexpected sausage gravy and the underseasoned grits and too-greasy latke. He asked if I normally like a heavy hand with seasoning and i replied that I never add salt to my food. (I do enjoy heavily seasoned food, but don't eat it frequently at home. I do have the expectation that whatever comes to the table should already be appropriately seasoned and not have to adjust it at the table.) He said that he agreed with me about the latke being too greasy. He also said that our server should have told us about the gravy, but I would think that should have been made clear by the menu.

        I realize it was opening night and had tried to match my expectations accordingly, but was still slightly let down. My partner and I are no longer as excited to try the rest of the menu options, but I will probably give it several more chances over the next few months to see if the food will even out.

        1. Had lunch at the newly opened diner yesterday. Decor was very nice. My challah French toast with apples and walnuts was delicious. My husband said the same about his turkey club sandwich which was served with fries.

          We would be there often except for one thing -- the noise level was terrible. The restaurant was crowded when we got there, and the noise actually hurt my ears. By the time we left, the crowd had thinned quite a bit, yet it was still noisy.

          At the moment, they are not taking credit cards, but that should change soon.

          8 Replies
          1. re: LafayetteHill

            Thanks for the detailed and honest reviews mookleknuck and LafayetteHill. Sounds like I should wait a bit before trying the new place. As far as the noise level, my husband and I find that problem in many of the new restaurants whose decor is heavy on the hard wood - especially wood furniture, and flooring. Hopefully they will add some type of sound absorbing material on the walls or ceilings. Too many hard surfaces with nowhere for the sound to go. Refreshing that the owner is visiting the tables and seems receptive to constructive criticism. I wish them well.

            1. re: curly girl

              Thanks for the reviews. We're going to be biking around that area next weekend and are planning to try it. The menu sounds great for brunch. Hope they do something about the noise, the older I'm getting the more that is becoming an issue. We were at Dimitri's in Queen Village the other night and the noise level was painful.

              1. re: DaisyM

                I just read on that they're closing down temporarily.

                In a statement, Tom Richter, Peter Richter, and chef Michael Cappon, the crew at Conshohocken's Isabella, wrote: "The kitchen was not able to produce the food at the high level of quality that the owners demand. They are restaffing, retraining and will reopen with a product that will meet the standards their customers expect."

                1. re: sharonlouk

                  401 closed again! Not surprising. The opening was designed by Chef Michael and Tom Richter. Richter owns Girard Finance. He finances restaurants and bars. 30% interest or more and you have to resign as an owner to get the money. If you miss a payment, he doesn't have to go to court. He takes over. Enough said! The chef has been a chef only at a sports bar in the northeast and was a line cook at El Vez. he did not chef a restaurant at Marathon, but was in the commissary. He is a promising but inexperienced chef. The other owner is the son of Tom. He was a waiter at a college restaurant, absolutely no experience. The restaurant consultant that developed the concept at ISABELLA was peter dissin who is now associated with a significant center city restaurant group. I ate at 401 and the food was below average and the service, well i dont know if you call that service or a disservice, The eggs, potatoes and bacon with coffee was over $8.50. the very average hamburger was $10.00. The quality is not there. THE 401 DIES AGAIN

                  1. re: foodiecritic14

                    I hope they work out the problems. The menu sounds great. We bike in that area and it would be nice to have another casual option.

                    1. re: foodiecritic14

                      That seems a little harsh, foodiecritic14. I admire The 401 for taking a step back to regroup. The reviews on the Chow as well as on other sites are mostly favorable. They mention some pretty standard issues for new restaurants, but nothing that can't be fixed. I for one hope they are able to resolve the issues and re-open soon as a well-oiled machine.

                      1. re: curly girl

                        tried again today to go to 401, with the small paper sign on the door saying 'temporarily closed'...went across the street to get some breakfast and watched at least 2 dozen people walk to the door and leave's really disappointing that 1) they can't get their act together and 2) they seem to have no PR to speak of to let people know about this stuff. The spot couldn't be more prime and it doesn't have to be knock your socks off food. Just solid, dependable food, but it seems like the crew can't get their act together...hopefully this falls into the hands of people who can get this off the ground.

                        1. re: mkertello

                          They seemed to have plenty of PR before opening. I saw at least two features on Channel 6 about the place.

            2. Hot off the press - Grand Re-Opening of 401 Diner is this Saturday. I wish them well and hope their customers will cut them a break if they're not 100% right out of the box. Hard to find too many restaurants that don't have a few glitches during their first few weeks of opening.

              4 Replies
              1. re: curly girl

                Agreed! Restaurant openings are rarely smooth and supportive consumers should recognize that and go armed with patience and a focus on their potential. It would be nice if this place succeeded and is a nice addition to the local dining scene.

                1. re: mookleknuck

                  i went earlier this week for lunch...decor was great, prices and menu look promising, yet the food failed to deliver. even a simple grilled cheese was burned and the fries were cold and limp. really pulling for this place, will try again...

                2. re: curly girl

                  went back to 401 again, raw bacon in my sandwich which took 20 minutes to recieve . Also not open for dinner. this place is not professionally operated