There's no denying that Allston is an ethnic-cuisine hub. Just head down Brighton and Harvard avenues for your pick of Italian, Indian, Afghan, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Middle Eastern, Colombian, or Brazilian cuisine. But what Allston has lacked is down-South comfort food. Allston Diner, a new all-day breakfast and lunch restaurant, adds a fresh flavor to the neighborhood's multicultural dining scene, with cornbread waffles topped with crispy fried chicken ($10.99), warm biscuits in sausage gravy ($7.99), and corned-beef hash ($10.99), all made from scratch and often locally sourced. Paula Deen would be proud.
After months of renovating, Allston Diner opened February 1, taking the place of Indian and Pakistani restaurant Grain & Salt, which closed this past May. The menu has classic breakfast offerings, such as bagels ($1.80-$2.39), French toast ($7.99), breakfast sandwiches ($5.99), eggs ($7.99), buttermilk waffles ($6.99), and pancakes ($5.99/short stack; $7.99/full), as well as coffee ($1.79) with unlimited refills. They also have vegan-friendly options, including "the Dixie Burger," made with black beans and sweet potatoes ($8.99).
I tried the hefty "Vegan BBQ Breakfast" ($9.99), a veggie version of their "BBQ Brisket Breakfast" ($10.99). The seitan, topped with melted Daiya vegan cheese and dripping with the owner's original-recipe barbecue sauce, was soaked up by a thick slice of crunchy Texas toast. Then add the best spicy whole grain mustard-miso tofu scramble I’ve tasted and Southern-style collard greens. I was transported, with Johnny Cash singing in my ear while my tastebuds danced along.
For lunch, Allston Diner has a variety of sandwiches, salads, soups, and sides, notably a Reuben, with corned beef with Swiss, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing pressed on marble rye ($8.99); the "Southwestern Salad," spicy black beans, avocado, tomatoes, and bacon over mixed greens with ranch dressing ($9.99); and mac and cheese ($3.95).
The restaurant has a laidback retro-diner feel, with a cerulean green, black, and white color scheme, tables clad with illustrated comic, trivia, and art-book cutouts, and a soundtrack that leans toward Motown music. At the front of the diner is a bar lined with stools where soon-to-be regulars can chat with the waitstaff. For a nice break from fast-paced city life, Allston Diner is a great sit-down spot.
ALLSTON DINER, located at 431 Cambridge Street in Allston, is open Monday–Friday, 6:30 am–4 pm and Saturday–Sunday, 8 am–4 pm. Call 617.208.8741 or visit allstondiner.com.