In praise of the American diner

sipbite
Sip and Bite, Baltimore

The all-American diner. A place were sustenance, company, warmth and companionship are available 24/7.

Or so the legend goes. The diner – complete with its booth seating and stark lighting – is an icon of movies and literature alike.

In fact fans of the American version of House of Cards might spot something familiar about this one – although this is Baltimore Inner Harbour, for the Netflix series, it was made out to be in nearby centre of power, Washington we were told by our AirBnB host in the city.

It’s easy to see why the television bosses chose Sip & Bite. It’s perfect. From the impressive external appearance to the strangely contradictory internal experience of cosiness within mirrors, tiles and that particular shade of lighting which gives everyone the pallor of the early hours at whatever time of day. Yes this IS the American diner.

What about the food?

Sip & Bite menu

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Alongside the inevitable burgers, chicken, steak and the ever-present crabcakes, this diner offers a lot of Greek options with huge salads vying for your interest alongside the fried and grilled options. Sadly we had a limited experience of this immense menu having simply popped in for a snack after work.

Oh how I would have loved to sample the ‘eggs over-easy with famous fries’, or smother some homemade buttermilk pancakes or even the DDD Combination platter. What a mixture!

We ended up with a Greek salad and something with fries and the cooking was nothing out of the ordinary, but the whole atmosphere and experience made up for it.

Greek salad
Greek salad

Unlike so many places in the UK, the staff aren’t surly teens starting out in the jobs market, the staff here are proper grown ups with rents and lives to pay for. And I know this because in the short time we were there, sitting under a Star Spangled Banner (another Maryland creation), I learned more about the waitresses love lives and domestic arrangements than I know about most friends.

This commenter on TripAdvisor sums up the experience of eating there at all times of day and night:

The Sip & Bite is a Baltimore tradition. I remember eating here with my parents as a kid, going there late nights as a college student and now taking my family there for a good meal. In fact, in all the times I have dined at the Sip & Bite, I have never had a bad meal. The staff is friendly and the service is always good. Everyone in our party very much enjoyed their meal. I got the seafood club special which was a three layer club sandwich with a crab cake and seafood salad on it. Wow, was it good. I strongly recommend the Sip & Bite for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

After our hurried meal, we intended to try to repeat the experience for that other great US dining experience of a leisurely Sunday, brunch.

No chance. The queue along the building said it all.

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