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Mar 23, 2013 06:29 AM

Need help navigating diner menu (LONG STORY WARNING)

I do not want to offend anybody who may disagree with me, or start a side discussion if I don't write eloquently enough or if I am wrong, which may be the case.

I am not celebrating Palm Sunday tomorrow, but family that is has invited us to a diner mid-late morning to have something to eat.

I know, by experience, that they expect, by the laws of power, everyone at the table follow their lead and order the same or similar dish. steak=steak, pasta=pasta, etc…

Regardless if I or you agree, I will do this. It’s family.

My dilemma comes when I know it's Sunday, a holiday and I know they will order omelets. It’s the “special treat” for them. :-)

Now, please bear with me. These Big Box “greek” ‘New Jersey’ diners that dot our landscape here on Long Island are not, in my opinion, what diners were, or supposed to be no matter how much stainless steal they put on their exteriors and neon and, and, and…

I am not a fan of any of the food. Navigating the 20 page menu of repeated food stuff and the lack of help from servers doesn’t help.

Back to the omelets. I don’t mind an omelet. I actually ‘like’ omelets once in a while.
The problem I face is I do not like eggs cooked to “well done”. I do not have a fear of salmonella or anything like that. Call me crazy.

I have, in the past, unsuccessfully requested “soft” when ordering an omelet. The person who told me to order it this way was not at the diner when I decided to order this omelet ‘soft’, or I would have had him eat the browned crusty outside and RAW inside of this “omelet”. When the server came over and asked if everything is OK, I said yes. He saw the plate was barely touched and the RAW interior of the omelet had run all over the plate.
He insisted on taking the plate back to the kitchen. I insisted I did not want anything else as a replacement and will gladly pay for what I ordered and I’ll just eat some toast that was on the table with the coffee.
The manager comes out apologizing and letting me know that the “CHEF” was insisting that his omelets are just fine! Then insisting to me that I ordered wrong and what I really wanted was an omelet just like the person across from me. Brown, dry, folded over at least four times and nothing like what I was expecting or tried to convey to the server.

They didn’t charge me for the omelet, we paid the rest of the check, left and I have been trying ever since to avoid as much as I can ordering omelets in these type of 'diners'. I do try other peoples food when I, reluctantly, go to these type of 'diners'. So I do try omelets of those at my table sometimes, just in case I’m wrong and I end up in these Big Box “greek’ diners sometimes despite my best efforts to avoid.

Someone recently told me that I should try when ordering an omelet in one of these places to ask, “please do not brown the eggs”. I am scared of a repeat of that RAW omelet and the crazy diner “CHEF”.

So, please help. How do I go about ordering a regular, not “well done” omelet in one of these generic, mediocre, Big Box “greek” diners without getting scorn from every level and I can sit and enjoy my family’s company?

Thank you in advance for you help and assistance. Your advice is greatly appreciated and valued as fellow Chowhounds!


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  1. Don't order an omelette. If they are all having breakfast just order another breakfast item like scrambled eggs or french toast, pancakes, waffles, etc. Maybe one of your relatives will change their order too. You never know.

    7 Replies
    1. re: rolise

      Thank you. That's very sweet.

      "Maybe one of your relatives will change their order too. You never know."

      Not a chance. BUT! if they do something that is out of the ordinary and order something like, say, french toast or whatever, then i'll order french toast or whatever... :-)


      1. re: Gastronomos

        Would a little dissembling be in order? Like:
        My doctor wants me to cut back on eggs - I'll just have a small salad.

        But, I must note that what you report as the standard way for these diners to make omelettes is actually how I like them and how I can never get them made around here. Different strokes. Guess I should move to Jersey.

        1. re: Gastronomos

          I understand that every family has their own quirks, but I'm having difficulty processing this situation.. You can say to your relative prior to the next meal that you think ordering the same thing as everyone else is a wonderful tradition, but you would rather order what you want than to pick at your food and waste it. As long as you do this prior to the meal, I just cannot fathom why this should be an issue. Look; I get that you want to go with the flow and keep the peace, and yes this is a relatively minor issue in the scheme of life, but if you do not draw a line and set a precedent for this, what about more important issues that may come up in the future? The reason I say this as that while I do not have the exact same situation in my family, my family is chock full of control freaks. Sometimes you just need to put your foot down or you will get walked all over.

          1. re: NicoleFriedman

            Nicole - ahh, but then the control freak will most likely make a comment like "well WE'LL have (X) but I understand that's not good enough for G who wants something... 'different', G?"

            in his eyes you'll always be the familial pariah. all you can do is 1. play along, 2. lie about some made-up allergy, or 3. avoid the whole event altogether.

            1. re: hill food

              1. Play along

              good enough for me for this particular situation. I can easily enjoy an omelet just as much as anyone else. I have no known food allergies and actually "like" omelets. I was hoping that by giving a story background others would not just say "order something else". I ordered the omelet. whatever. it was almost edible. I am not gonna rock the boat on this issue. I have bigger fish to fry. This website is about food. That's all I care about.

              That said, *grampart* above said to show pictures to the server of how I would like my omelet done. I haven't tried that yet. And I would love if you can help me order an omelet that isn't brown, crusty, dry and inedible.. or RAW. Please keep in mind ALL omelets in these places, save for the "cheese omelet" , are served "pancake style" or "denver style" or whatever they call them where all raw ingredients are mixed with raw egg and spread thin on a flat top grill, toasted and folded into a pile on a cold plate. (hot plates are only for salads in these places)

              Otherwise, the power issue is their problem, I won't make it mine. :-)


              1. re: hill food

                Oh, hill food, you description is perfect.

                "well WE'LL have (X) but I understand that's not good enough for G who wants something... 'different', G?"

                I was G and I was baffled that I became the target for their wackiness at every turn. I didn't know this particular breed of person exisited until I acquired them as in-laws.

        2. You sound as though you aren't willing to rock the boat and order differently from the family tradition. The restaurant seems pretty locked into their method of preperation.

          Personally, I would eat a light breakfast at home first. Then I could just focus on the conversation without being frustrated about my omelet. Even if the omelet is wretched you still can nibble on your toast, bacon, etc.

          3 Replies
          1. re: meatn3

            This is what I was thinking too. Don't go there hungry, order one with filling you like so you can eat the filling with your toast and the side dish. Make the egg a "non issue" for everyone.

            1. re: sedimental

              Here on Long Island the omelets in these 'diners' are all made with all ingredients mixed in with the eggs then fried to a crisp. The only exception is the cheese omelet, still crispy eggs, but eating plain melted american cheese on its own? I would LOVE to get a folded omelet and eat just the filling avoiding the crispy eggs, if it were possible. :-)

              1. re: Gastronomos

                Oh.... That sounds icky to me....and pretty obvious if you were to pick out the edible ingredients!

          2. I would just order something else. These guys do not want to get sued so they won't do soft eggs. Tell them you just had a big omelet yesterday and you are concerned about eating too many eggs.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Just Visiting

              See, I have ordered scrambled eggs in these places, not an omelet tho. SOMETIMES, rarely, but SOMETIMES the scrambled eggs are actually ok, not overcooked, so sueing anyone is out of the question. :-)

            2. Would they really be offended if you ordered a turkey club sandwich instead? So long as you are not ordering the most expensive thing on the menu, I cannot believe this would cause that much of a ruckus, but it's your family so ....

              (I suggest the turkey club because in my experience its almost always a safe bet at a diner, assuming that they actually use real roast turkey, which most do.)

              5 Replies
              1. re: masha

                It's not causing a ruckus, I am just very sensitive to the comments and looks if I order something OTHER than what everyone else is ordering. Sure, I can risk a club sandwich, or as it's known in these places a "Fancy Triple Decker", cut into four making it no longer an edible sandwich... I just prefer to go with the flow...

                1. re: Gastronomos

                  Well, given the parameters of the problem as you've described them, either you order an omelette or you order something else. If you are too sensitive to withstand the observations that others will make if you order something else then it's pretty clear you will have to order an omelette.

                  1. re: masha

                    And that same sensitivity would most likely prevent you from ordering an omelette by telling the server, "I don't want to see any brown on the outside nor do I want to see any runny egg on the inside or I'm sending it back". You might want to skip that last part for fear of some "foreign matter" finding its way into your otherwise perfect omelette.

                    1. re: grampart

                      Yes."foreign matter" for the request... like I am insulting the "chef" and the crispy omelettes... LOL thanx!

                  2. re: Gastronomos

                    "cut into four making it no longer an edible sandwich"

                    so add to the order: "and please don't cut it."

                    I used to have to go to a deli/grill that insisted on cutting everything in half, which is fine for a tuna salad, but not a cheeseburger.

                2. This is the most absurd set of conditions I have every read on Chowhound. Are you actually under the impression that you absolutely must order the exact same thing that your relatives oder?

                  28 Replies
                  1. re: Virginian

                    I'm never surprised by something like this.

                    Some families have certain carved in stone traditions. Depending on the family dynamics it is often not worth attempting change - especially on a holiday.

                    My grandparents were the same way about a restaurant which served an excellent chicken dinner. You-did-not-even-think-about any other menu item if you dined with them. They would have felt you were disrespecting their generosity and it would have shot the whole evening to hell.

                    It's just one meal. There are 1094 more in the year...

                    1. re: meatn3

                      So, you understand. Thanks. I'll just "go with it"as always... :-)

                      1. re: Gastronomos

                        I am independent and have no problem being tactfully assertive. But with family sensitivities I choose now my battles carefully. If the issue is not going to have long term serious ramifications I will happily go with the flow.

                        Sadly, it took me many years to reach this point...Some families, well, you just can't make this stuff up!

                        1. re: meatn3

                          This steak=steak totally flummoxed me. While I may do a lot to maintain family harmony, ordering what the Head Honcho orders just does not come into my field of vision. Guess I'd take the heat and order what I want. As someone else wrote, there may be many sighs of relief from others who now have the freedom to order whatever floats their boat.

                          1. re: meatn3

                            No. You just can't make this stuff up. I learned the hard way when I married. I never dreamed that this existed. It didn’t anywhere in my family. But it does here. It started with steak and our sitting in a simple Italian - American restaurant many years back and I ordered, GASP! Chicken Parm ! How offensive! You MUST have the Steak, or Veal chop, broiled “WELL DONE!” Plain! sides come in monkey dishes, luke-warm and undressed otherwise they are looked at like they were adulterated or something!?

                            Even visiting family out of state, I get the same and worse.
                            One visit we sat at a simple nice neighborhood place in a town I haven’t ever visited. Excited at the possibilities and with a group of 12 people we sit and I excuse myself to the rest room to clean up and upon arriving back at the table, a beer was sitting waiting for me and they already placed my order! Of COURSE you want the T-bone steak and ... WELL DONE!! How ELSE would you eat it?

                            I am the one who married into this family, so I am an outsider that will always be ... “taken care of”, as in ""you follow our lead and you’ll be ok…""

                            Funny, I know. You just can’t make this stuff up!

                            1. re: Gastronomos

                              I can relate, sometimes I think my family is convinced they're some sort of clogging chorus line out of "The Producers" when it comes to social graces.

                              but then again, I take them to dim sum, or a good taqueria etc. and what do they order? dim sum? tacos? no. maybe omelettes are right in this context and maybe that's the best on the menu.

                              is a bloody mary an option?

                              1. re: hill food

                                Bloody Mary's , for me anyways, is not an option, they are REQUIRED! LOL! I don't know if I could do it without a few Bloody Mary's LOL! Thanks.

                                I laugh at the seafood restaurant we visited once and EVERYONE ordered steak. Gotta love it... and the whiskey that gets me through these meals... :-)

                                1. re: Gastronomos

                                  Perhaps sometime you could host and *gasp*horrors* instruct everyone to look over the lovely menu and please order what ever appeals - 'cos, gosh - everything here is delicious!

                                  A few may have their brain implode but them's the breaks!

                                  1. re: meatn3

                                    LOL, Thanks! I've done that and hosted at home catered and with my own cooking as well... to no avail.

                                    meatn3? Alas, Up here most don't know what meat and 3 is. Maybe that's a part of the problem as well... ;-)

                              2. re: Gastronomos

                                You do realize that the family's insistence on everyone ordering the same thing is not the only bizarre behavior going on here. Your compliance in this stupidity is just as rediculous, and you are only reinforcing their stupidity.

                                1. re: Virginian

                                  True. Very true. And my not following made bigger problems not worth the damn omelette issue. I was just looking to get an omelette that wasn't dry. That's all. Otherwise I don't care at all for the control they insist on having over anyone or everyone. I can easily enjoy a not well-done omelette just as much as any dish and let them go about their lives as I do mine, which is to seek out places that serve food fit for us chowhounds to enjoy and discuss here on these boards. :-)

                                  1. re: Gastronomos

                                    So, how did it go Gastro? Were omelettes the meal du jour? Or did the patriarch opt for steak and eggs for all?

                                2. re: Gastronomos

                                  I might suffer through an overcooked omelet (I never order omelets in restaurants. I only like them ok but I love other diner classics such as biscuits and gravy or corned beef hash.)

                                  However, I would NEVER accept someone ordering a well-done steak for me. I would rather raise a ruckus and get the whole control issue out in the open rather than be responsible for doing that to a steak.

                                  1. re: John E.

                                    John E. Up here on Long Island, New York "other diner classics such as biscuits and gravy" don't exist. :-(
                                    And corned beef hash is from a can. :-(

                                    As for the steak... like I described the situation, "the same and worse"
                                    You just can’t make this stuff up.

                                    1. re: Gastronomos

                                      I had an uncle who liked to be in control of his family. He screwed up his kids royally. In restaurants, usually fine dining, he would ALWAYS send his food back because there was something wrong with it.

                                      My only knowledge of east coast diners is from Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.

                                      I hope you only have to suffer through these kinds of situations a few times each year. Is there any grumbling from the family members, or do they enthusiastically submit to this form of abuse?

                                      1. re: John E.

                                        Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives did only one "special" episode, early in the series, very much denoted as a "special" episode called the "New Jersey Diner Tour" where they in one show visited all the "big box" New Jersey diners they or anyone could ever sit through in all their mediocrity. I don’t remember exactly, but I think they showed some place and their dishwater soup, another place that was a confused diner/bar/nightclub… and one with some old guy happy to sit alone and order chicken francaise over broccoli… Since then Guy will occasionally make a mocking remark or reference about these grand palaces of mediocrity.

                                        Control with this guy in the family doesn’t bother me. It’s him and his wife as well. She just likes to make comments constantly, like a wise ass, but she is so clueless nobody even bothers to comment back. Everyone knows to just go with it. If it’s Sunday morning and it’s overcooked dry crusty unseasoned omelets, then so be it. The steak was nearly impossible to choke down another time. Most of these family members aren’t chowhounds anyway and they aren’t aware that omelets and other food can be prepared deliciously and, GASP!, Seasoned. (Please don’t get me started on the “home cooking” at their place. That is a disaster I cannot digest!) I just let them do their thing and I do mine. It’s only the occasional diner a few times a year we visit with them for breakfast or lunch or dinner. (Although the extended family seems to have an addiction to these horrible places and their indifferently made food stuff and unfortunately has us sitting in these god-forsaken places a little more often than I care to) And, as I replied after that day, I sat through the breakfast/brunch with a dry crusty unseasoned omelet and I lived to tell about it. I lived another day to go out Chowhounding!


                                        1. re: Gastronomos

                                          The BayWay Diner in Linden NJ was the first place ever filmed for DDD. Here is a short video with Guy about that episode. Check out the burger!

                                          1. re: grampart


                                            BTW, does White Manna count as well???

                                            1. re: Gastronomos

                                              I'm sure it does! I read that the BayWay was the first place the crew filmed, but not necessarily the first place shown.

                                            2. re: grampart

                                              That was the first diner at which they shot video but it was not the very first place they went to. The first location they shot D, D, & D was the Dairy-ette Drive-in in St.Paul. Page Productions was located in the Twin Cities and they previously produced a diner road show special for Food Network that had Al Roker as the host.

                                              1. re: John E.

                                                And sadly these have nothing to do with these oversized diners up here in the NY metro area that have too long menus and can't seem to get an omelet on the table that isn't overcooked dry crusty and unseasoned. But when they serve 10,000 non-chowhounds a week, they tell me it's easier than having most of them sent back asking for them to be "well done" or "browned". So I come here to ask chowhounds what to do if I have to suffer in these sh!pholes.

                                                1. re: Gastronomos

                                                  The Twin Cities (where I live) has exactly 1 'diner' in the style of the east coast diners that resemble train dining cars. It's in St. Paul and has been featured in many TV diner specials and at least one film. (DDD has not been there because everyone else has been there to shoot video.) It's called Mickey's Diner and was in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie "Jingle All the Way", a dreadful movie. The food is quite good for what it is.

                                                  I have a SIL who cooks eggs so well-done that it sucks all the saliva right out of your mouth. If fried eggs are requested, my brother cooks those because either she can't or will not cook them with the yolk still runny. She also likes her beef and pork well-done. My brother usually cooks those meats as well.

                                                  I would bet those diners have SOMETHING on their menu that you would like, if it were only possible for you to seek it out.

                                                  (I predict this is one of those threads that stays around and is resurrected over and over.)

                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                    John E. actually I have been on this site from nearly it's inception. I have advised others and have been advised by others for many many years about how to choke down anything from these "big box diners". Yes. I've tried. Name it. I've ordered it. These "diners" are the bane of my existence. FWIW, most claim to be diners but have signs that say, "Diner Restaurant". These places are so revered by so many non-chowhounds that it's nearly impossible to get a true chowhound with the guts to post anything. Even in sympathy, which is NOT what I seek, but it is funny. This original post was supposed to be my asking for advice on how to get an omelet that is edible. I have to pick my battles. One at a time.

                                                    1. re: Gastronomos

                                                      With the long history and the population base, there apparently are enough non-Chowhounds to keep these places open. Where I'm from the landscape is dominated by Denny's, Perkins, etc. that fill this niche.

                                                      When I read your OP I understood your point at attempting to order a decently cooked omelet. I also sort of figured everyone would have an opinion on the family dynamics.

                                                      I relatively new here, having posted for about three years, and am still learning about the history of this site. (I've only started a few threads however.)

                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                        These big box "diners" dominate the landscape so much so that we just recently got Denny's on Long Island. I read that there are three Denny's locations now.
                                                        That said, many of these old school "diners"are closing here on Long Island. Manhattan doesn't have many if any left and they are closing all over Long Island. The reasons? There are as many excuses as there are "diners".

                                                      2. re: Gastronomos

                                                        Were you on CH under another name in the early beginnings back in the late 90s?

                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                          No. Gastronomos from day one. I was never a "serial poster" as Jim Leff called it back then. I post only when I need or can assist.

                                          2. re: Gastronomos

                                            Trust me, this stuff isn't made up!

                                            Gastronomos - I completely understand.

                                            It is amazing how similar the crazy control freaks can be. My ILs were the same way. Any deviation from my FIL's direction was cause for WWIII. I hated going out to restaurants with them.