When I hear the word ‘diner’, I am transported to the pages of Archie Comics of my youth where Archie and the Gang would hang out at Pop’s, the local diner, and enjoy hotdogs, burgers and most importantly, milkshakes. As I stepped inside the opening event of 56th Avenue Diner, the red cushion seats, trays of sliders and the sound of blenders brought me in those very pages. Albeit I was in the middle of Olaya Street, tucked in the corner of the the Hyatt Regency amidst a bustling crowd that was growing by the minute.
As we got our names checked and got in, we were welcomed by several service staff carrying trays of drinks, shrimp cocktails and little hotdog sandwiches that were disappearing fast. As an American themed restauant, the menu clearly reflected fast food like burgers, steak, fries and a dessert list that will make your heart trickle with sugar.
The event was fully packed and luckily, the entire restaurant was wide and spacious enough that it was able to accommodate almost a hundred of VIP guests, press and social media bloggers that were present. The ceilings were sky high and the walls were adorned with a number of large abstract paintings. Janelle wanted to attend the 3raba Fest so we had to split our presence for both events on the same day. I ended up cozying up with our good friends from Destination Riyadh, Jou and Douha in the same booth and ordered our milkshakes before having a proper chat. But before that, I made sure I did our Facebook Live and for the very first time, our Instagram Live.
When I got back to our seat, our milkshakes arrived and they came in these huge 18 oz glasses. I had the Strawberry Milkshake and the other ladies had the Choco Malt and the Oreo variant. The rainbow marshmallows on top were a nice touch but just like in the comics, this tall order is good enough for two people.
The Choco Malt was luscious with chocolate-milky goodness. I am also happy to report that the strawberry milkshake tasted like it was made out of fresh strawberries.
I’ve always heard of cornbread on the Food Network and always imagined what it would be like. I think the taste of this one did not disappoint my expectations but the look was a bit different from what I’ve always seen on TV. There were actual corn kernels in every bite and the addition of herbs made the bread smell more enticing. It was a crunchy on the side and a bit crumbly in the inside with a touch of sweetness.
Their take on the cobb salad was quite different from what I expected too. While the base of romaine lettuce was definitely there, it was topped with grilled jumbo shrimps instead of the classic alignment of chicken and bacon. Among with the mix were halved grapes, sliced apples, pieces of sauerkraut and a slab of blue cheese that made me gawk like an amazed ape (I love blue cheese!). I took a bite that had a bit of everything and did a mini happy dance while I was seated. The lettuce and apples were crispy fresh, the shrimp was buttery and the blue cheese’s saltiness was countered by the tangy vinaigrette they got going on. My hands are up in surrender, I shall order this again! *woot woot*
The tomato soup was light as a feather and in each scoop I found small avocado slices and wisps of melted peppered jack cheese. My bowl had somewhat of a sour taste to the avocados in it but the rest of my table said theirs were fine. The tortilla garnish would soon disappear as I dip it in the soup and bite away. It’s a decent starter that won’t get you full fast.
I had high hopes for the steak portion of the evening but while we were waiting for the food to arrive (which took a while to be honest) we already came to the conclusion that more or less, the steak that would arrive will more likely be a well-done one. Of course, I can understand that in a press event of over a hundred people, it would be impractical to take all the orders of how we would like to have our steaks done. And as expected, the meat arrived fairly dry and it was begging for some buttery, sauce-y lovin’. The fries were standard-issue to me and the plate overall was quite uninspired.
Now I don’t want you to be disheartened by my steak experience and would like to remind y’all that they did serve us some really tender hotdogs (that felt similar to grilled sausages), juicy sliders and sumptuous shrimp cocktails earlier in the evening. I was just not able to take a picture of the rest of them because they were all being served as hors d’oeuvres. I was told that the hotdogs and burgers are the hihglights of the restaurant so don’t say a total no just yet. After all, dessert is about to come.
The last dish of the night was a tribute to classic American desserts called a “Trilogy of American Treats“. It had a cube of blueberry cheesecake, a cup of warm peach and cherry cobbler and a block of almond brownie with ice cream. My favorite of the three was the brownie, which was fudgy and just enough for a sweet ending (some desserts tend to be too humongous). The cherry in the peach and cherry cobbler was too sour for my taste buds but the pastry on it was really worthy of praise and another bite. You should also know that they have a dedicated dessert corner where you can get customized ice cream, pies, cakes and even Arabic sweets. They’ve also got tea lounge within the restaurant for those who’d like to burn off the meat sweats with a cup of tea or coffee.
During the course of the dinner by the way, there was a cool photobooth and raffle selection that happened with the organizers taking Instax photos of the guests and putting it in a bag to be selected from later on for the game of charades. By the time we were turning to leave, the charades were on full swing with participants trying to act our Arabic expressions.
Overall, the 56th Avenue Diner is a fancy version of the comic diner I had in mind that not only included classic American fast food but also incorporated recipes that would fit the Middle Eastern palates. Perhaps on my next visit (sans the whole press parade), I can have a more zoomed in review of their burgers, hotdogs and other special menu items.
56th Avenue Diner
No. 56 Olaya St. Hyatt Regency Hotel
Opening Hours: 6AM to 11:30PM