Marcy's new owners step up, but not overly far

Preserving a treasure
By BRIAN DUFF  |  February 22, 2012

FEAST YOUR EYES And your mouth and belly.

Inheritance is the problem of the modern age. Medieval children had only to successfully embody the values of previous generations. Now every person faces the demand to be a self-created individual — to craft and articulate her or his own tastes, values, opinions, and style, and suppress the qualities of soul passed down by our parents. The results are embarrassingly shallow — culminating in the current epidemic of boring conversation, bad tattoos and mustaches, and obsessive use of Facebook.

Thus it is refreshing to encounter an example in which inheritance is handled smoothly — neither with obsessive imitation nor with shallow rebellion. Such is the case at the newest incarnation of Marcy's Diner, the little downtown greasy-spoon that has been around since the 1940s (as "Marcy's" since the 1980s). Having changed hands last summer, Marcy's feels the same, but also not the same. The new owners, Darla and Doug, have taken all the motorcycle memorabilia off the wall, for example. But as they work the grill, within easy view of every seat and booth in the diner's cozy space, they seem like two people who might be into motorcycling if they had the time. Their banter with regulars at the counter is utterly comfortable.

What has replaced all the motorcycle pictures are chalkboards, with the specials spelled out in neat letters with colored chalk. It's a touch of crunchy small-town diner aesthetic, and the specials are the most striking new touch. As a Marcy's long-time waitress noted, "they put some creative stuff up there." One example was a "bread-bottom quiche." The bread was thick enough that it might better have been called "quiche-topped bread." But the bread was light enough to not overwhelm the salty mix of egg cheese and bacon that topped it. This special compared favorably to its existential opposite, a crustless quiche that seemed a bit dainty for its environs. The board also lists home-made muffins, which are served split and briefly grilled. The blueberry muffin was pretty great — not too sweet or cakey, with plenty of fruit.

The heart of the menu is still classic diner food, and the main breakfast combinations give you a lot of food cheap. In this sort of place it's the fried eggs that really show the cook cares, and ours were done exactly to order. Scrambled eggs are a blunter instrument, since it's impossible to achieve delicate curds on a flat griddle, but Marcy's version gives you nothing to complain about. An omelet wrapped a thin shell of those eggs around a big pile of middling spinach. Diced ham and onion gathered on the sides. Some cheese would have held it all together, and we were wrong not to have included it in our order.

The sausage at Marcy's is a step up from the typical chewy diner links — you get something fatter, more tender, and less bluntly salty. The new owners have also upgraded the bacon, which is thicker and has a better mouthfeel. "Homefries" are really hashbrowns of the simple shredded potato variety — a big pile whose brief time on the grill imparts every possible potato texture — from soft and tender to hard and crisp. French toast is simply and nicely done, with a flavor more eggy than sweet. Either the French toast or big fluffy pancakes can be included with your egg breakfast to create a huge meal for less than seven bucks.

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