Things have gotten weird lately with the word diner. Brendan Sodikoff opened one, named . It serves foie-gras terrines and $48 bottles of pinot noir. Stephanie Izard is opening one sometime this decade, and one potential menu item is a goat burger. So when the couple who own said they were opening one, it was well within the realm of possibility that the term diner was once again going to be interpreted…loosely.
To some extent, this happened. Eggy’s is a very contemporary restaurant, set in the futuristic-corporate Sim City that is called Lakeshore East and designed by the same firm as Girl & the Goat. In the kitchen is Zach Millican: He is the former chef de cuisine of Custom House Tavern. He is also, it turns out, a man with an uncanny ability for sandwich making. You cannot eat the beef-tongue sandwich—festooned with sliced jalapeños and a big fried onion ring—and not think this guy has a gift. After that it’s like, of course Eggy’s has a ridiculously good fried whitefish sandwich, slathered with house tartare sauce. How couldn’t it?
Not every menu item achieves success so effortlessly. This is in part due to the challenge Eggy’s has set for itself: It leans on none of the crutches (fancy ingredients, fancy beers, etc.) that so easily romance and distract eaters. Instead, all it has to work with is the canon of familiar diner food—except it has to do it better. This didn’t happen in the Peter and the Wolf, a hash of chewy pastrami and stale-tasting hash browns. Nor in the pale, underfried fries. The fried chicken I’m conflicted about: The cornmeal coating struck me as too dry and hard, yet it managed to pack in such an impressive amount of the bird’s juices that I ended up caring more about the meat anyway. And the Cobb salad is just that, albeit one made with high-quality ingredients.
Dishes like that salad—improved without needing to be “reinvented”—are what Eggy’s is about. Desserts are charmingly simple: a big slice of dense chocolate cake; a petite sundae with roasted pecans and whipped cream. If you think it’s hard to make simple dishes like this transcendent, you’re mostly right. But you also haven’t had the masterfully rich chocolate sea-salt brownie. I got it to go, shrink-wrapped, and I can’t think of a plated restaurant dessert that would have been better.