Over-the-Rhine has always harbored a soft spot for its long-suffering diner car. Originally The Diner on Sycamore, the car was shuttered in 2001, reopened briefly in 2005, closed again, then became the hip boite Vinyl (complete with DJ booth), which closed in 2007. The most recent incarnation is Joe’s Diner on Sycamore. The atmosphere is true to its retro roots: gleaming stainless steel, a long counter with round stools, and cushy booths along the windows. The interior may be spare, but its menu spares nothing. Everything from chili to hot dogs to grits is represented, and there are late-night specials for the last-call crowd. The Neon’s Chicago-style “dawg”—a steal at $2.95—is served with diced tomatoes and onions, relish, spice mustard, celery seed, and a pickle spear. Joe’s turns in a respectable burger, with a hand-formed quarter-pound fresh ground beef patty served on a toasted Kaiser bun. Exotic cheeses (Havarti and Gouda, among others) add points, but the fries steal the show. Unholy and delicious, these crunchy fries are laced with a secret housemade BBQ chip-style seasoning blend. The shrimp and grits arrived dressed like a shrimp cocktail with spicy grilled shrimp perched on a bowl of cheesy grits. The chicken fried chicken is not for the faint of heart: boneless fried chicken swims in white gravy atop even whiter Texas toast. Unfortunately, the chicken here was too tough. However, the fried chicken crowning the chicken and waffles was just right. Joe’s sweet cream waffle stands up on its own, but topped with salty, crunchy chicken, it’s a match made in Southern-fried heaven. Finish with a chocolate shake if you dare (or can) for a full diner experience.
1203 Sycamore St. Over-the-Rhine (513) 421-5637 Prices: $2.95–$11.99 Breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days. Originally published in the January 2011 issue.
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