TLO Restaurant Review: The Diner

I had gone to Norman early that Saturday to meet up with my brother and nephew for lunch before taking them to see the latest Marvel movie. When I suggested eating at the Diner for their all-day breakfast, it was roundly shot down, mostly because my nephew only likes French fries from McDonald’s.

So there I stood, in front of the Diner, with a mostly small-time decision: to dine in this historic eatery all by my lonesome or to give up everything I culinarily hold dear and head on down to McDonald’s for some sup-par grub based around the uneducated whims of a 5-year-old…

Sorry, kid.

In one form or another, a greasy spoon has been operating at 213 E. Main St. in Norman for well over a hundred or so years, with the eponymous the Diner being the latest in a gravy-drenched string of breakfast joints. Known surprisingly for their chili-covered Tex-Mex dishes, the current owners have somehow managed to master the impossible and crafted a down-home feel with a cool college vibe.

I sat down at the bar and almost immediately my tatted-up waitress unloaded a strong cup of coffee for me. Looking over the menu, I figured I’d go full-on South of the Border this morning and order their hugely popular Tamale Breakfast ($10.49). (Also on the menu, I noticed that a couple of years back human naugahyde Guy Fieri had eaten here…but I guess I really can’t hold that against the Diner, right?)

The cooks worked the tamales on the flat-top with steady skill as a dude from the back brought out another hundred or so eggs to placate the rush. Watching my food being diligently prepared, excitedly I got the bottle of green pepper Cholula at the ready, steadfastly in the convenient condiments bouquet right in front of me.

Now I’m easy-going about many things, but one thing I’m pretty tough on and always will be is when it comes to tamales. I guess it’s a good thing then that the Diner’s breakfast tamales are pretty damn delicious; featuring two thick masa-heavy tamales that did a good job of not sacrificing their minor heat for their major taste, they are then topped with two eggs—I got a pair sunny side-up—and the spectacular chile con carne, and finished with ranchero sauce and a bit of cheese.

Pensively but with purpose cutting into the tamales with a fork, the insides were just running down the corners of my mouth with each full bite, engorged in the very definition of puramente divino Tex-Mex. Even better, they worked well with the side of home fries, which I dowsed in even more Cholula like the bandido picante that I believe myself to be.

As I was picking at the remaining bits of masa on my plate, I couldn’t help but feel bad that my nephew couldn’t—or should I say wouldn’t—come for breakfast at the Diner, because I’d be willing to bet him the hottest violent video game on the market that these here tamales were a good deal better than some fucking McDonald’s fries. Cómpralo ya!

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