Does anyone around here remember RJA? You know, the guy with all the kids? Well, I thought he'd given up eating out, but thankfully he hasn't. Here's an updated review of one of Midtown's finest.
645 N Mclean Blvd
On a recent Saturday night, three out of four of our kids spent the night with their grandparents, leaving us with only one small child come Sunday morning. Anyone with four kids knows that having only one kid is just like having no kids at all. I’d been sick for a week and didn’t feel much better that morning, but I knew that this was an ideal opportunity for something we miss dearly in our hectic lives, a leisurely Sunday morning breakfast out. So I forced myself out of bed and into the shower and promised Kristy a Brother Juniper’s feast.
We’ve enjoyed Brother Juniper’s for years, though not as often as we like recently, it being more of a special occasion when we’re down to a manageable number of monkeys; Juniper’s is just a tad small for the six of us to descend upon. Driving by that morning, though, we saw what you always expect to see, but always hope to avoid: The Wait. There is no foyer, no lobby, in this tiny house-like structure, so all waiting for tables must be done outside. This morning the waiting was being done in the 40-degree temperature. I don’t know if it was my recent illness or just the fact that I’m getting older, but I just didn’t have any wait time in me. The Spanikopita Omelet is delicious, but it’s not that damn delicious.
So we debated where to go next and, it being nearly 11:00, and us wanting something familiar, we decided on Dino’s Grill. Not for breakfast, but for their regular Sunday turkey and dressing. What do you say about Dino’s? It’s so familiar to me that reviewing it is like reviewing my own dining room at home, and it’s only slightly cleaner. But Dino’s is not known for its … hygienic environs, it’s known for its tasty home cooking and such Italian staples as stuffed shells, lasagna, spaghetti and ravioli. Nevertheless, as we slid into a booth and fit my 19-month-old daughter snugly into one of those wooden platforms that restaurants call high chairs, she looked about her with an air of disdain. “Really? This is where you brought me to eat?” she said.
Me: What? It’s Dino’s, your mother and I have been coming here since before we were married.
GK: My God, how old is this place?
Me: I don’t know. Old. But the food has always been good. You’ll like it.
GK: Don’t you condescend to me, old man.
Me: All I’m saying is that they have good, home-cooked meals here. And some really good Italian cooking.
GK: I’m sure.
Me: Your mother used to work here in college.
GK: Does she work here now? Because I could use some saltines.
Me: Just be patient.
GK: You’ve already spilled something on your shirt.
And the conversation went on from there, but I won’t bore you with the details.
Nothing changes at 645 N. McLean, so Kristy and I ordered without the aid of a menu; turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes with gravy, corn and green beans for me; the same for her, no corn or beans, add turnip greens and black-eyed peas. One thing I always liked about Dino’s is that it’s a true meat and three, not a meat and two like most places, and the portions are heaping. The food came out fast and hot and I dug into it, the taste as familiar in my mouth as my own teeth. Kristy took time to portion out some lunch for GK, who smelled each item, taking a good long look at it, before begrudgingly shoving it into her face. And she liked it! Except for the greens, of course, because greens are disgusting. She spit those out into Kristy’s hand and I’m fairly certain Kristy wiped them on the underside of the booth.
For a sit down meal of vegetables or authentic pasta with your kids, there are few places better in Midtown. Rudy, the owner, knows most of his guests by name and is always quick with a laugh or a towel for that spill. And the price is right. The price is right, that is, if there are only between two and four of you. Stacey has implored us in recent months to take our monkeys out to dine and then write about it, but the truth is we just can’t afford it, not with five of us ordering off the menu. Yet this particular Sunday we made it out for only $17 and change. Seventeen dollars, that is, before GK calculated her standard 4% tip.
For another take on Dino's, click here.