Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dinerwood on the Road: Clayton's Coffee Shop - San Diego

Original Dinerwood Friend Greg and I went down to San Diego for San Diego Comic Con this past weekend. On our first day we neglected to eat anything. By the end of the day, we had gone beyond starving and into a dull ache in our tummies. We shambled back to the car with our swag bags and headed out to Coronado island. Last year #1DC Antoinette and I had a bizarre and awkward experience at the Night and Day Cafe; located just down the street from there is Clayton's Coffee Shop.

My biggest concern with doing a Dinerwood review on such an empty stomach was that we'd be so hungry that everything and anything would taste good. That ended up not being the case. That sounds ominous, but it's not.

Clayton's Coffee Shop is how you do a 50's diner right. It's not over the top. It really feels like a place you could have eaten at back in the 1950s.

A jukebox is about as garish as Clayton's gets. It doesn't need pictures of Marilyn and Elvis on the wall to capture the feel. It does so with colors and textures.

It was 9pm on Thursday, so things were starting to slow down. There were a few singles at the counter and a few couples at the booths. There were still about four waitresses working and we never wanted for refills on water or coffee (The coffee was only okay).

When our waitress came to take our order, I asked what she recommended. This is always an interesting question to ask. If they say "everything," it's not at all helpful and tells you a lot about the waitress. If they say "nothing," WHOA--That's an honest waitress and you should listen to her. If they ask for more specifics, you know she's taking your question seriously. She asked what we were in the mood for. I wanted breakfast, Greg was more open. We just told her we were starving.

She began a litany of menu items and before long the ladies at the table behind us joined in and started listing their favorites. The daily special was a turkey pot pie, which one of the ladies was currently eating and said it was delicious. Ultimately, I went with corned beef hash and eggs and Greg got the baked turkey dinner.

Greg was also sold on the soup-of-the-day, which was chicken tortilla. Apparently, the owner of Clayton's also owns the Mexican take-out place next door and a lot of their Mexican dishes are actually made there and then brought over t0 the coffee shop.

The soup was really good. It was hearty--each spoonful had some tomato, some chicken, some tortilla and some cheese. It was just a little spicy, giving a little tweak to your taste buds.

Our waitress then brought out Greg's baked turkey dinner. It was a giant mound of turkey and a giant scoop of potato, flanked by a medley of steamed fresh vegetables and a dish of cranberry. Here's how I know I wasn't so hungry that my opinion would be off--I did not care for the gravy. It needed more salt. You could tell it was made with real pan drippings, but it just wasn't salty enough for me. Greg liked it, though. Everything else was great, but I couldn't get behind the gravy.

My breakfast-for-dinner came out looking a little cramped on the plate. There was a lot more corned beef hash on the plate than the picture shows. I ordered my eggs over medium and two of them were right, but one was cooked through. Not a huge deal, since they all tasted good. The hash browns were standard and tasty. The corned beef hash was outstanding. In fact, it was the second best corned beef hash I have had in California. The best is at Nick's in Los Angeles.

I'm not sure what they did with my biscuit, but the bottom was a little soggy (maybe they put it on a freshly washed plate that wasn't dry yet?). Otherwise, it was good. I tore it in half and used one half to sop up some egg yolk and the other to just have with jam.

One of the women who had been sitting behind us stopped by our table to see how we were enjoying the food. Although we didn't take her advice about the turkey pot pie or french toast, she was very sweet. She asked why we were in town and when we told her it was for Comic-Con she got a little sad. It was her first year not going. She and her husband had enjoyed going every year. She was Mrs. Dick Durock. She was Mrs. Swamp-Thing.

I almost wanted to thank her for her husband's service, but that would have been weird.

She wished us well and told us to have fun at the Con.

This was my favorite piece of decor at Clayton's. They take delicious pie so seriously, they painted it on their wall. Here was my odd conundrum--I wasn't totally in the mood for pie. Shock! Horror! I was craving a milkshake. I thought I might have to order both and then explode like the guy from that Monty Python movie.

Greg saved me from such a fate and ordered the apple pie and let me have a few bites. It was very good. It tasted fresh and was made with granny smith apples, which gave it some tart flavor. The crust was dry but not "dusty."

I asked our waitress what kind of milkshake she recommended. I knew which one I wanted and I was hoping she'd list it early to confirm my craving. She went down what seemed like the whole list before I finally stopped her. "What about peanut butter and chocolate?" "Oh, I haven't tried that one."

I went with it. Some sips were more peanut butter, some sips were more chocolate. Each one was heaven.

Clayton's Coffee Shop just became my go-to spot in San Diego. I will drive over that giant bridge to get to the island any time. It was pleasant and absolutely a classic.

Food: Good.
Service: Very good.
Price: $6-$10
Pie: Various. And good shakes!

Clayton's Coffee Shop
979 Orange Avenue
Coronado, CA 92118
619) 435-5425

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