Perhaps still smarting from the quick closure of the Asian-inspired LongBranch—its predecessor in the Fall Creek Place location—22nd St. Diner (2205 N. Delaware St., 317-602-6726) seemed to still be trying to settle into its own skin when we visited for a recent weekend brunch.
Online notification of menu modifications (dropping family-style, fixed-price dinners, for example) seem to back up that assumption. Such tweaking and rethinking of choices indicates, to me, not compromise but a sincere search for what will make the new place work. Without turning it into a restaurant run by polling, of course.
The new name might be both a blessing and a challenge. Replacing the vague “LongBranch” with such a specific moniker should help attract first-timers. But “diner” does pose challenges, conjuring up visuals and thoughts of menu offerings not compatible with what you’ll find here.
The interior holds no spinning-stool counter or revolving dessert display, and while there is an emphasis on breakfast foods, they don’t come in the standard diner shapes and sizes.
Don’t go looking for coffee and a plate of pancakes before the workday begins, since the place opens at 4 p.m. (It opens at 11 a.m. on weekends.)
On our visit, we tried to sample across the menu spectrum, but our casual waiter returned from the kitchen twice with news of sold-out items.
An opening Davenport Cinnamon Roll with Buttermilk Frosting ($6) was the meal’s biggest disappointment. I expected something more subtle than a standard over-iced mall bun, but this version, chewy and without much flavor, barely fit the definition.
However, the Patty Melt ($12) and a Meatloaf Biscuit ($6) demonstrated that the kitchen knows how to give an upgrade to diner lunch staples, although the price points could lead one to expect a little more finesse in the presentation. The former came with provolone, caramelized onions and a hint of ginger. The latter offered a few bites of meat with tomato jam and smoked cheese. One of the stars of the meal was the generous plate of Sweet Potato Fries ($2.50), where a coating of chunky salt nicely balanced the sweetness of the potatoes.
Also strong was the Steak and Potato Hash ($12), with egg, braised greens, and beet ketchup masking slightly overcooked beef. The Not Yet Classic Benedict ($12) wisely avoided letting the pimento cheese hollandaise dominate, instead offering smoky bits of beef to dominate the borderline-small plate.
We ended as we started, with baked goods. This time, the Savory Bread Pudding ($6), while delicious, was more of a dense bun coated with a great sauce.
Other offerings—assuming they last—include Lemon Ricotta Pancakes ($11), Beef Manhattan ($12) and Hoosier Pork Tenderloin ($10). And unlike its predecessor, 22nd St. Diner welcomes kids.•