Starlite Diner shines at breakfast | Rock Candy

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Starlite Diner shines at breakfast

Posted By on Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 8:49 AM


The great American diner. Few establishments have been more influential in the sculpting of the American culinary culture than these humble and beloved restaurants. But today they seem to be a dying breed. What with the uprising of farm-to-table, locavorism, fusion cuisine, and an emphasis on artisanal products, perhaps the lowly diner has become lost in the shuffle. I’m all for those things, truly, but I’m also convinced that sometimes there’s nothing more comforting and satisfying than traditional diner fare. Sitting down at a “greasy spoon,” being served a messy patty melt and fries or big, plate-sized pancakes with slabs of real butter—there’s something emotionally rewarding about such an experience. It’s the definition of comfort food.

Starlite Diner in North Little Rock is no stranger to change. The shimmering metal building has seen several openings and closings, new owners, and name changes in the past years. But now it returns with a vengeance, determined to make this go-round the greatest ever in Starlite history. They’ve cleaned up and revamped the place, revitalizing the small but comfortable interior. The results are encouraging, and I hope this time, Starlite Diner will stick around for a long, long time. A recent visit reminded me just how uplifting such places can be—and when it comes to diners, Starlite is about as authentic and real as one will find anywhere.

Recently we stopped in for breakfast, a meal wherein a great diner separates itself from the rest. When a place offers breakfast 24-hours a day, you know this meal isn’t some meaningless afterthought, some hapless attempt to wrangle in a few extra customers in the morning hours. They’re not reserving the “show-stopping” dishes for dinner. No, breakfast is really the time to shine for any respectable diner. And shining is something that Starlite does exceptionally well.

We started with the “Big Boy” breakfast special. No surprises on this plate; all the expected breakfast staples make their appearance here. But it’s a substantial amount of food, sure to fill that empty space inside of you, that growling hunger aching for relief. Three eggs, three strips of bacon or sausage patties, hash browns, biscuits and gravy or two pancakes.

We ordered our eggs “over easy” (the only decent way to serve them anyways) and we were presented with three perfectly done specimens. Runny yolk, soft, but firmer whites, prepared by a cook who clearly knows his way around the flat-top, who’s certainly made hundreds, probably thousands of such breakfasts in his day. The sausage was of the pre-fabricated variety—the frozen, packaged discs that cook quickly and easily. They were just a tad rubbery, and we would have preferred freshly prepared, but they were not unpalatable—we still managed to eat every bit. The hash browns were adequate—soft potato, not overly greasy, with a nice, golden crunch from a quick trip on the hot plate. They required a bit of salt, but again, we happily gulped them down. Lastly, our biscuits and gravy proved to be surprisingly good. We’ve often had issues with bland, lazily-done sausage gravy, often sloshed together from a prepared “just add milk” mixture. This gravy, however, had a good bit more flavor and savor than most other gravies we’ve sampled, probably owing to the hearty portion of crumpled sausage incorporated within. The biscuits were plump, fluffy, and dense. When generously slathered with gravy, they made for an excellent dish overall, one that we plowed through with gusto.

We could not pass up the opportunity for some classic diner pancakes. Starlite Diner doesn’t offer any fancy adornments to their pancakes—no nuts, fruit, or chocolate. Simple buttermilk pancakes with real maple syrup, slathered in butter. We chose a short stack—two 10-inch pancakes. They were heavenly. Airy, hot, and buttery. It’s everything you’d ever hope for in a traditional, no-frills pancake.

I’m looking forward to getting back to Starlite for dinner or lunch. They’ve got the diner stand-bys you’d expect from any honest-to-goodness outfit. Burgers, club sandwiches, turkey and swiss, chicken fried steak, or grilled cheese with an assortment of pies for dessert. But no matter what dinner has in store for me, I’m fairly certain I’ve found a breakfast joint I’ll have no problem making regular appearances at.

Starlite Diner is located at 250 E. Military Dr., North Little Rock. (501) 771-2036.

Open Tuesday, Wednesday, & Saturday 6 am to 2 pm. Thursday & Friday 6 am to 8 pm. Sunday 8 am to 3 pm. Closed Monday.

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