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Chrome Plated Diner
Out of a possible five

Creamy pies fine at shiny new diner

I couldn’t help but smile when I sat down in Chrome Plated Diner and peered through the big window to the kitchen.

When I saw Sharon Watson with a big mixing bowl adding whipped cream to pies, I knew those were going to be great. Watson’s son, Torey Smith, owns the diner, and neither is new to the kitchen. Sharon owned her own place – Sharon’s Diner – and their family has been involved in a number of successful restaurants in Fort Wayne.

So I knew the pies would be good, and they were.

The Snickers pie was a thick one; there were plenty of chopped-up candy bars in the cream-based dessert and a ton of that whipped cream on top, along with a tasty drizzle of caramel. The banana-chocolate chip pie also had a mound of whipped topping, a chocolate-infused crust and a bright yellow pudding base that exploded with banana flavor. The coconut cream and blueberry pies were up to snuff, and the sugar cream, a Hoosier staple, would have made any diner proud.

Those pies were just what I needed at the end of my meals, too, because they were the only thing that truly shined at Chrome Plated Diner.

Nestled in North Anthony Center shopping plaza, this diner was attractive with a new red and black color scheme, two sets of counter seats – something every diner needs – and walls dotted with flashy chrome car bumpers, hubcaps and vintage auto pictures. And the menu looked the part with breakfast available during all hours, burgers and such diner classics as meatloaf and pork tenderloins.

And there were a few nice items; starting with a couple of appetizers.

The Loaded Taters – crispy, fluffy tater tots with a ton of sweet, tender pulled pork, onions, red and green peppers and cheese on top – were hard to stop eating. The Cheesy Sticks – hand-breaded and deep-fried mozzarella – were a rare find, and, despite the fact that they exploded a little in the hot oil, were better than the from-the-freezer version most places offer.

The meatloaf, lauded as a homemade family recipe, was dotted with onions and red and green peppers, and had a sweet, kind of pasty tomato-based topping, just like my mother’s ketchup-based topping. It was good, but not as good as Mom’s, and would have been better without the bad brown gravy, which had to have come from a mix.

The rest of my experiences at Chrome Plated Diner were abysmal.

The pies may have been great, but the shakes stunk. My khakis were darker than the chocolate milkshake, which had no chocolate flavor. The peach was even worse. Tart, frozen peaches were used, which gave it no sweetness, and the fruit was still frozen when I found it in the bottom of the glass. Both were too frothy and runny.

The servers were responsible for making those shakes, too, which was a problem. During both visits, they seemed too busy to make them. During one visit, I had already received my appetizers, dinner salad – bad, too, with just iceberg, a pinch of cheese, one cucumber and one tomato wedge – and main course before the shakes arrived.

During that same visit, my Bleu 65 GTO burger was the first thing that came to the table – before my shake, before my appetizer, before the salad and before any of the rest of my party’s food. The server apologized when I told her I was not ready for it and placed it under the warming lamp in that kitchen window, where it sat for more than 20 minutes while we had the appetizers and salads.

When the rest of the main courses were ready and in the window, they were brought to the table along with that burger. Needless to say, it tasted as if it sat under a heat lamp. This burger, stuffed with bleu cheese, was dry and crumbly. And, in spite of being stuffed, the cook smashed it flat on the griddle which not only forced all of the juice out of the meat, it also broke it open so most of the cheese ran out, too.

The Big Bopper tenderloin, dubbed a “Huge! hand-breaded double-dipped fried Frisbee,” was paper thin and as dry as that old burger. It may have been double-dipped in breading, but that breading lacked seasoning and was pretty much flavorless.

Even the breakfast items fell flat. The spinach and feta omelet arrived tepid and was poorly made. The fresh spinach was mixed in with the eggs during cooking and there was plenty of it. The feta was folded in after the eggs were cooked, and the omelet was not warm enough to melt the cold chunks of cheese inside.

The bagel sandwich was piping hot; actually, part of it was too hot. The eggs were perfectly cooked and the bagel was nicely toasted, but the sausage patty was burnt to a crisp.

At least those pies were good and my cups of coffee were spot-on. But I don’t think they were enough to bring me back.

Restaurant: Chrome Plated Diner

Address: 3434 N. Anthony Blvd.

Phone: 387-7692

Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: None

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Loaded Taters ($6.99), Cheesy Sticks ($4.25), meatloaf ($8.95), Big Bopper ($7.99), Bleu 65 GTO ($7.59), spinach and feta omelet ($7.35), bagel sandwich ($4.95), pie ($2.95), shakes ($3.25)

Rating breakdown: Food: 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: 0 (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.