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January 6, 2010

Diamond Café: A Facebook phenom scores in the real world

As a veteran of food and wine online since well before Al Gore played his small role in the invention of the Internet, I’ve been following the development of social media from the start.

But here’s something new: Mark down Diamond Café as the first local spot I’m aware of that went viral on Facebook before word-of-mouth spread news of its arrival in Clifton Heights.

Diamond (“D&C Diamond Café,” per its business card) quietly replaced Taste of Jamaica a few months ago. When I spotted the café’s Facebook fan page the other day, bearing the slogan “fine dining at an affordable price,” it had already gathered more than 900 followers.

This is online Marketing with a capital M, and it signaled that Diamond has a canny computer guru working its web action. But would that translate to glory in the food and service department? Only one way to find out.

Diamond Café is handy to Clifton and Crescent Hill dwellers, but mind you, it’s not exactly located in a restaurant row: It shares a parking lot with a check-cashing, payday-advance shop that’s aggressive about fighting for its share of the small lot. Observe the signs or expect a tow truck to call. It’s just down the block from Kroger, across from the four small huts that briefly housed the original Shiraz as it began its leap toward local chaindom.

Walk in the doors, though, and it’s a whole different story. Mary and I presented ourselves for duty at lunchtime on a brisk December day and were delighted to find simple but stylish decor, with a shiny-tiled L-shaped bar (they’ll serve beer and wine as soon as the license comes through). Colorful local art hangs on golden-beige textured walls, and mahogany tables with black-and-chrome chairs sit atop tile floors. As a bonus, sunshine pours into the full-wall, plate-glass windows to warm up sunny winter days. Service was courteous and professional. As for the food — it was first-rate.

Owner Chordie Kinnard’s menu is billed as classic American cuisine at a great price, and I’d say that’s a fair description: The menu offers a variety of down-home dishes-turned-upscale, with prices that don’t top $8 for lunch (with the exception of a pan-seared, sushi-grade albacore tuna salad). Dinner prices range from $8 (for a Kentucky Hot Brown) to $16 (for a grilled New York strip steak).

A shared appetizer order of fried artichoke hearts ($8) hit the spot. Seven or eight creamy hearts-of-art’ were cloaked in a light batter that seemed to include a touch of Parmesan cheese, deep-fried to a crisp light-gold and served sizzling hot with a bowl of herbs in clarified butter for dipping.

Mary went the plate-lunch route with a grilled center-cut pork chop ($8) and found no fault with the small, boneless, grill-marked chop or the outstanding sides of creamy mashed potatoes and perfect, peppery green beans.

My pick, the classic Reuben ($7.25), was a near-perfect rendition of the genre. The corned beef appeared to be fresh-sliced rather than packaged deli meat and was sandwiched on crisp grilled rye with plenty of mild sauerkraut, molten Swiss and a “homemade sauce” that seemed a bit more like mayo than the standard Thousand Island dressing. It was big enough to need decorative toothpicks to stabilize it, and the sandwich more than filled me up.

Dishes are a tad slow coming out, but that’s amiably explained: Your order is essentially prepared from scratch. This might be a problem when the place is full, but heck, it only has about eight tables.

The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday, and serves breakfast/brunch until mid-afternoon on Saturdays. I could see becoming a regular there.

Our lunch, including fresh iced tea, a diet cola and a take-home cup of peach cobbler ($3.99), came to $33.11 for two, and I was happy to add on a $7 tip.

D&C Diamond Café
2017 Brownsboro Road
895-0070
www.diamondcafe.webs.com
Robin Garr’s Rating: 85 points