4701 Ruffin Rd. San Diego (858) 715-6400
In the corner of Stu Segall's working movie lot (think Silk Stalkings and Veronica Mars), sits this gleaming chrome and neon railcar-style diner that could have starred in one of Hollywood's 1940's period pieces. In keeping with that theme, Studio Diner's menu rounds up most of "the usual suspects" comprising typical diner fare. What caught my attention, however, were several East Coast specialties that had been noticeably absent on the San Diego dining scene. That, combined with the fact that SD is open 24 hours, something all too rare in our city, prompted me to visit on a recent Saturday night.
I ordered Stone Brewing Co's Pale Ale ($3.75) to keep me company as I perused the menu.
I found Stone's flagship pale ale to have a deep amber color, a mild hop aroma, and a firm malt flavor. While I prefer their IPA, being able to order a Stone product at all, in a diner setting, was a pleasure indeed.
As a starter I chose a Cup of New England Clam Chowder ($3.75).
New England chowder comes in varying viscosities, ranging from thick to thin. Studio's version is towards the thick end of the spectrum. The flavor had a solid "from the sea" quality, and was not overly salty. There was an abundance of fresh tasting clams, with just the right amount of potatoes. Though the consistency was a bit thicker than I prefer, all in all, this was a good chowder which I would not hesitate to order again.
As I was here for the East Coast specialties, the Lobster Roll ($18.95) was a must.
This roll excelled through its simplicity. Celery, mayonnaise, and six ounces of fresh, tender lobster meat is combined and piled high on a lightly toasted, soft, white roll. Although the lobster roll does not boast many ingredients, the result is truly greater than the sum of the parts.
I knew a trip to Studio Diner would be incomplete without sampling the Fried Clams (Market Price ($16.95 on my visit)).
The stars of the show on this plate are the whole belly Ipswich clams that SD flies in, fresh from Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Mine were fried to perfection, and possessed good flavor, with a texture that was not too chewy. The house-made tarter sauce and lemon wedges made for the perfect accoutrement. This offering was a solid rendition of an east coast favorite.
Sitting at the counter, I was witness to all the food-service action.
As you can see, the diner was bustling at 9pm on a Saturday night.
Watching the waitresses manning the shake machine throughout my meal, I was compelled to order a Chocolate Malt ($5.50) for dessert.
The malt was rich and creamy, and made me feel like I was sitting at a soda jerk counter back in the forties. It had just the right amount of malt flavoring, and I would be hard pressed to pass up this frozen concoction on subsequent visits.
Due to the demise of Bar West's upscale menu, I am pleased that another San Diego restaurant has stepped in to offer a quality version of Maine's staple, the lobster roll. This offering, combined with the superb fried clams, is enough to make Studio Diner a worthwhile dining destination. While my meal focused on their East Coast specialties, it is important to note that the extensive menu has something for just about everyone. Studio Diner features high quality food, with some unique-to-San Diego items, fast and friendly service, along with a fun and nostalgic dining environment. Add to that, true 24 hour service, and I say, "this is the begining of a beautiful friendship."