The Basic – A Wild Card from Skillet Diner

I made my way over to Skillet Diner the other weekend for the second time in the past month. Many of you may be aware of Skillet because of their famous Skillet Street Food truck, an awesome Airstream trailer which can be found roaming about the city (location calendar here). The success of their roaming food-mobile led to the birth of their Capitol Hill located diner in early 2011.

Ever since that first time I went to Skillet Diner I had been itching to go back. After having a delectable burger they call “the basic” and a seriously tasty “adult milkshake” I was hooked. So a few weeks after my first encounter with the establishment I made my way back in for a second go-around.

I’m going to break this review down into my first and second times visiting:

First Visit:

My first experience with Skillet Diner was fantastic. For a place that is typically very busy (expect to wait during peak hours) it was actually pretty calm. Had no issue getting a seat and the service was quick and friendly. I ordered “the basic” and an “adult milkshake” to go along with it.

“The basic” is a painted hills beef patty with lettuce, pollo’s special sauce, pickle, american cheese and served with french fries or salad; I went with fries. I ordered my burger medium and enjoyed my milkshake while I waited. The burger came out quickly and looked great. There was a healthy amount of sauce on the burger, two thin lengthwise slices of pickle, and a fair amount of shredded lettuce (not my favorite).

When I took that first bite I knew that they had done a really good job. The burger was nice and soft with a fair bit of pink in the middle, the juices flowed out of it with every bite. The amount of sauce on the burger was perfect. It last merely a few minutes before I was left alone with the fries still on the plate. On a side note, the fries are fantastic and you can sub poutine for them if you desire for a little bit of an up-charge.

The issues I had with the burger were few, but things I feel still held it back from being a great burger. I was pretty disappointed in the cheese. I’m not sure what type of cheese they use at Skillet Diner, but it felt like they slapped on a Kraft Singles. I also didn’t see why they didn’t throw in some tomato. I really enjoy a nice slice of tomato with my burger and I felt like it would have benefited from the addition. All in all though it was a solid burger, not a standout, but certainly well above average. The patty itself was cooked up fantastically but some of the dressings (or lack thereof) left it from achieving stardom. I’d have to say there’s some room for improvement but that they’re definitely cooking up a good burger from this first experience, 3.5 Stars.

 

Second Visit:

Well my second visit could not have been more opposite of my first. The joint was packed, something I expect from Skillet Diner, so that didn’t bother. I waited merely a few minutes before getting a seat. Service was still great, the waitstaff make it look easy the way they handle the masses that flock to the Diner.

I ordered up another round of “the basic” and chose to go with a milkshake (hold the “adult”). I kept my order for the basic as medium and then sat back and enjoyed my milkshake, looking forward to another go with the burger.

This time though I began to grow concerned. Rather than the quick turnaround I got last time with the burger I found myself waiting nearly twice as long. This to me typically indicates that the burger has been sitting on the grill for too long and that I’m going to be left with a charred piece of beef. I told myself though that things would be fine and that there was likely just a backup in the kitchen and that it took them a while to just get my burger going.

Unfortunately I was wrong. The burger came out with more cheese on it this time (plus) but I fear this may have merely been to mask the char that was underneath. The burger was very well done with no pink in the middle and barely any flavor left in the meat at all. This may be the way some people like their burgers, but I barely consider it edible. To make matters worse there was also just a little bit of sauce on it. A dry patty with minimal sauce really doesn’t make for tasty burger-ing. I chowed down the rest of my fries and left nearly half the burger on the plate before settling up and leaving.

This second effort really doesn’t warrant much more description, it was really an unpleasant burger, 1 star.

 

Final Word:

My hope is that my order merely got lost in the shuffle on this day, I really enjoyed my first experience there and would like to chalk this one up to a rare poor effort. There are still many items on the menu I want to try, including: “the burger”, “lamby joe’s”, “the ultimate grilled cheese”, and the “fried chicken sammy.”

I will be going back to Skillet Diner and will likely try “the basic” again. I will update you to any further developments!

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