We wrote about Metro Diner when they first opened in Sarasota, back in 2017. We saw that location as the kick-off to the revitalization of Westfield Siesta Key Mall. Metro Diner was the first new restaurant in the area for some time, with three more quickly opening at the revitalized mall soon after the diner’s debut.
To remind you, Metro Diner originates in Jacksonville, but their menu takes on the flavors that I grew up with. At a recent visit to the new Metro Diner on the southeast corner of the intersection of Lockwood Ridge and University Parkway, we met Justin Gorrell, the Managing Partner of that location. At one point I had to confess . . . This Chicken Pot Pie makes me miss my grandma.
“That’s what we’re going for,” Justin explained. “The flavors in our menu items are designed to elicit emotions that connect you to meals spent with family.” I looked around the room, noticing how many tables were seated with multigenerational guests. It made me miss my maternal grandmother even more. She would have loved this place!
Mart and I were pleased that Justin joined us, as he was a wealth of information about the menu and why Metro Diner’s kitchen chooses the ingredients, cooking methods and presentation they do.
Take, for example, their Huevos Rancheros. This dish is typically not the most photogenic, in my experience. Then there’s the Metro Diner version. Their Huevos Rancheros presents like a firework on a plate. BANG! Order your eggs cooked any way you prefer, as they’re then hosted atop Chorizo sausage mixed with black beans, onions, and peppers covering the bottom of the plate, so the crispy fried tortilla chips covered in melted cheese, salsa, and sour cream don’t get mushy. My favorite ingredient was the fried jalapeno peppers sprinkled on top. Simply dipped in flour and flash fried, these crunchy bites of heat were unexpected and so delicious.
Another beautiful, but simple presentation, was Metro’s San Francisco Benedict. This was a “California” dreamy, creamy version of a typical Egg’s Benedict, featuring an English Muffin, Canadian bacon, and tomato, with a luscious half of avocado resting on top. Nestled inside the hollow of the avocado is a perfectly poached egg topped with Metro Diner’s house-made Hollandaise sauce. As you slice into each half, the egg and Hollandaise ooze into the dish, flavoring the tomato (which was slightly warmed on the grill beforehand, removing the chill but keeping the texture,) Canadian bacon and muffin. Really a nice dish!
We’ve lauded the flavors of Metro Diner’s Shrimp and Grits before, so naturally couldn’t skip an opportunity to enjoy them again. I really enjoy their cooking method on this dish. Instead of mixing the shrimp and grits together, Metro Diner makes a grits cake using cheddar cheese, roasted red bell peppers and Andouille sausage with the grits. When the grits are firm, they’re cut into cakes, almost like polenta, then given a flour and egg wash and fried hot on the grill. This allows the big, bold meaty flavors of the cream-based sauce, made from shrimp stock and loaded with chopped Andouille Sausage and fresh shrimp, to stand apart from the grilled, toasty cheese flavor of the grits! Nice take on this!
A new dish on Metro Diner’s menu was, as Justin explains, a kitchen “oops” moment that became a weekly special before being a menu item. Once, while making their house-made Alfredo sauce, a cook dropped Cajun spice into the sauce, turning the sauce a slight amber color. Rather than toss it out, another chef took a taste, added chunks of chicken, mushrooms and penne pasta to the sauce, and a new favorite was born. (Most home cooks can appreciate this!) How many times have you started making one dish and ended up serving another? The Cajun Chicken Pasta is the only pasta dish on the menu, but it is Cajun, so expect a kick of spice along with a full 8 oz. of grilled chicken.
Metro Diner’s meatloaf is another “can’t miss” for any meatloaf fan. Their meatloaf uses pork, turkey and ground beef, celery, mushrooms, onions, carrots, and breadcrumbs. Hosted beside real red skin mashed potatoes topped with brown gravy, the dish is also dressed with roasted veggies. Not quite like grandma used to make . . . This is better because she boiled her veggies.
My maternal grandmother had eight children and could stretch a dollar until George Washington would cry real tears! That being said, she made the BEST biscuits and the best homemade noodles I can remember. So it’s no wonder Metro Diner’s Chicken Pot Pie reminds me of my Grandma Spicer.
Just look at the biscuit crust on that pot pie! This dish is served in a rarebit dish, and can easily serve two. Loaded with baked chicken, lima beans, corn, carrots, peas and green beans, this Chicken Pot Pie takes me back to when I was a child visiting grandma and grandpa. Without thinking consciously, I checked to make sure my elbows weren’t on the table, and my napkin was in my lap. With each bite it was like being in Grandma’s kitchen, eating at her Formica table with the stainless steel trim. We liked this dish so much we took an order to a friend of ours, an older lady who lives alone. She was equally tickled and called to say it reminded her of HER grandmother. I think they have the recipe they should stick with.
“We sold over 110 Chicken Pot Pies in the first two days after opening the Metro Diner in The Villages,” Justin added. No wonder!
The finale of our lunch, thanks to Justin, was the Triple Chocolate Cake, which he gladly shared with us. As expected, it was chocolate upon chocolate upon chocolate! What’s not to like?
Metro Diner now has 3 restaurants in Sarasota. The original one on Siesta Drive and Tamiami Trail, the new one on Lockwood Ridge and another new one on Tamiami Trail in Venice opening on March 27th. Check their webpage for exact addresses of all of them. Today’s blog features the University Parkway location.
And for heaven’s sake, take your grandma or mother (or sister, or friends,) to Metro Diner. I am confident they’ll love it!