Cuisine: American, diner food
How Much You’ll Shell Out For 3 courses (for two): Under $50
Every town needs a diner, right?
Let me answer that for you. Right.
NYC has a diner on every half-block. I can tell you from personal experience that this fact does not mean that you can go to just any diner and get a good experience. Flashback to this past summer — July — at approximately 2:30 a.m. at a diner on 86th and 2nd. I ordered chicken fingers (possibly one of the safest and usually most standard items on a menu) and vaguely remember tasting part of the plastic from which the chicken was packaged and kept frozen. This was more than a bad experience.
Present time: February 6 2015. State College. Dinner time. Baby’s Burgers and Shakes.
Located conveniently on Garner St., just a block from campus, Baby’s is the pin-up girl of our tiny downtown. It is often compared with The College Diner, but that’s for another time.
Walking up the steps and prying open the door from the harsh February wind, my guest and I were promptly overcome by the smell of crisped french fries and creamy gravy. We waited behind a few groups of people, peering over their heads at the full tables, and noticed plenty of empty seats at the bar. Why are people so dissatisfied with sitting at the bar? For me, it’s all a part of the diner experience. We pushed through the crowd and seated ourselves in the face of the sizzling of burgers on the grill and animated whoosh of milkshakes spinning in the mixer.
My guest and I were in agreement that the hard week behind us called for a milkshake remedy, and if you haven’t yet been to Baby’s, you must get a milkshake. There are over twenty flavors/combinations and a featured milkshake every month. Our waiter, dressed in traditional white and red diner attire (complete with cap), rushed behind the counter and leaned toward us, ready to take our order. We hadn’t yet looked at the menu, but we ordered our milkshakes without thought — for me, a mint Oreo shake, and for my guest, chocolate ($3.99 each).
We glanced over the menu, unfazed by all the hot dog, hamburger and sandwich options. We’d both been here multiple times, and we had our favorites, as will you once you go. Everyone has their go-to diner plate. The waiter came back within five minutes with waters and our shakes. The shakes come in traditional tall glasses and are poured for us from the metal shaker in which the shakes were, in fact, shaken. Thick and flavorful, they held our palates over until our meals. We decided on our orders by the time the waiter was pouring: I ordered the Grilled Chicken breast sandwich ($5.49), complete with all the fixings, and a side of hushpuppies ($2.39) and my guest ordered the “Original” 1/3 lb. burger ($5.89) and a side of onion rings (extra cost to swap onion rings and fries).
While we waited, we took in the scene. Constant, loud chatter throughout the restaurant, servers whirling past with heavy trays of steaming food, checkered floors, coin-operated mini juke boxes in each booth. If you’re looking for a quiet meal, this is not the place for you.
For having been so busy, the wait staff really impressed us with how quickly they were willing to get us an extra refill of water or napkins. When our food came (I’d say approximately 15 minutes after we got there), both plates were fresh off the grill. I bit into my hushpuppies and they were true perfection — crunchy exterior with a fluffy, savory interior, and my chicken sandwich was juicy and accompanied by the right amount of onion, tomato and a soft bun. My guest was also completely satisfied by her burger — it dripped as she bit into it, and her onion rings were fried golden brown.
One would think that diner food is diner food, and that is true, as simple as that is. However, Baby’s met the “standard” — greasy food that will meet your stomach’s demands when you’re craving a good sandwich and something fried. And lets not forget the milkshake. God forbid you forget that.