I've been wanting to try the Downtown Diner for what seems like forever. Even though my sister has been working in Fort Saskatchewan for a couple of years now, we were never able to make concrete plans to check it out. We were finally able to this past Friday, and were left wondering, why didn't we come sooner?!
The Downtown Diner is a cool little restaurant located in the historic downtown of Fort Saskatchewan, a (very!) small city just 25 km northeast of Edmonton. They have the makings of a classic, old-fashioned diner but their food is kicked up a notch with innovative and unexpected twists. Everything from a meatloaf club to a shepherd's pie burger, expect all of it to be made from scratch (even the ketchup!).
The outside facade doesn't look like much; only a simple white banner in cursive hangs above the restaurant. Stepping in is a complete 180. Customers are transported to a past decade thanks to the 50's-inspired decor: black and white checkered floors, red vinyl booths, chrome accents, and a lunch counter to boot. It certainly does the diner in its name justice.
Though they had no problems getting by on their own before, the Downtown Diner received a major profile boost when they were featured in one of the episodes of You Gotta Eat Here! on the Food Network. It's worth a watch to see (and drool over) how some of their decadent creations are made. Also, can we just note that John Catucci has the dream job of all dream jobs? Travelling, eating, and wearing plaid? If he ever needs an understudy, I think I could do it.
Thanks to TV fame and word of mouth, I knew the place would be super busy. In order to beat the rush, we planned to get there right at 11 when they opened. Good thinking on our part, as it was full 20 minutes later.
The Downtown Diner is quite famous for their milkshakes so I knew I had to get one despite the inclement weather outside. (Ice cream just doesn't have a seasonal expiration date IMO). There was a decent flavour selection to choose from, and apart from your usual suspects (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, etc.), they also have special features from time to time (eg. smore's, orange creamsicle, lemon meringue, to name a few).
We decided to stick with one of their classic flavours and got an oreo milkshake ($6.00). Our server asked if we were sharing and said she could split it for us. Hold up. This is the milkshake split into TWO portions. Yeah, I know. ಠ_ಠ The milkshake was super thick and creamy that it rendered the straw pretty much useless. If you weren't planning on sharing it (and I don't blame you), what doesn't fit in the glass comes extra in the metal cup that they used to make it. Good luck trying to finish it!
I like to do a bit of research before going to restaurants, and though sadly there is no online menu for the Diner available, one item that constantly came up in my radar was the Downtowner ($14.00). It's a hefty burger, piled high with brown sugar bacon, smoked cheddar, crispy onions, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and diner sauce. It was incredibly messy and required a lot of smooshing down to eat, but it was just a really tasty burger through and through. The fries were also pretty fantastic, nice and crispy, and soft and fluffy inside.
Kentucky fried chicken, Korean fried chicken... now there's another KFC contender in town, and it's a heavyweight: Karen's fried chicken (1 piece $12.00; 2 pieces $15.00), served with creamy mashed potatoes and a small ear of corn on the side. The chicken is breaded with cornflakes, giving it a wonderfully crispy crust that gives way to an impossibly juicy interior. The drizzle of honey is the perfect finishing touch and it's what seals the deal for me. I don't like to use the word 'best' since the 'best' of anything is incredibly subjective, but this was quite possibly the best fried chicken I've ever had. SO GOOD.
We were stuffed to the gills and found it hilarious when our server came by to ask if we wanted dessert. Trust me, I would have, but I also didn't want to be rolled out of the restaurant on a stretcher, passed out from a food coma. On a related note, our server was incredibly nice and looked after us well. Other staff members would also come around to ensure that coffee cups and water glasses were never half-empty. Just gold stars all around.
I'm a city girl by heart, but I would seriously consider moving to Fort Saskatchewan if it means more regular trips to the Diner. But since we live in the northeast part of town, it's thankfully only a 20 minute drive away. If you live further south, make it a road trip, because you really do have to eat here!