I walked down to the brand new Trade Street Diner today. It was just a short walk from the studio where I record The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast and the other shows on The Less Desirables Network. The location is where Sweet Potatoes used to be, at 529 N. Trade Street. It is lunch time so all I can really review is their lunch offerings.
First, it was very refreshing to see that of their six beer taps, all of them were NC-brewed beer. I didn’t have any, but when a place has New Sarum and Sweet Josie from Lonerider, that’s always a plus. The wine list consists of 14 whites/sparkling and 16 reds. Not bad at all, the spread seemed pretty open with most popular styles represented. Is this a place that you’re going to go look for 123 different varieties of Chardonnay? No, and I’m quite sure they’re not looking to be. They have an extensive craft cocktail and martini list as well. I was greeted at the door by a nice gentleman who is on loan from Bleu Restaurant until the restaurant is more established. I chose to sit at the bar as I feel I get more personal service that way over just sitting at a table. I like to get a feel for the servers and see how they deal with other customers. The manager/bartender for the day was named Sarah and she was very good with the customers. Very nice and asked about my likes/dislikes when it comes to the brews and food choices.
The menu was pretty full for a diner lunch menu. Apps included pimento cheese and garlic naan, southern crab cakes (which Sarah said were some of the best she’s ever had), tuna tartare and chicken skin, chicken and dumplings and the most interesting thing in the apps, Chicken Cigars “Ode to Winston-Salem.” I didn’t have them this time but I will eventually. They are chicken livers and chicken confit served with grain mustard aioli.
Sandwiches included fried pork chop, a patty melt, a regular diner burger with lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayo and grilled onions, a housemade pimento cheese and applewood bacon burger, the Chef’s Burger of the Day (more on that in a second), fried green tomato BLT, southern egg salad, a hickory smoked BBQ chicken panini and a braised lamb “GYRO.”
They have salads, which, I think, are a staple of lunch. A house salad, mixed green salad, Caesar, and chef salad are all available and can be embellished with grilled chicken, grilled or fried shrimp, crab cakes, or roasted salmon.
They have entrees, each which comes with two sides. The choices are fried catfish, grilled meatloaf and gravy, a daily quiche which changes daily, crab cakes (presumably a larger portion than the appetizer version) and a 12oz short rib and chuck chop steak. That happens to be the most expensive thing on the menu at $15. There are daily specials as well.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for a good burger and I decided to try the special burger today, the black and bleu burger with bleu cheese crumbles and a bleu cheese and tomato compote with applewood bacon. I declined the blackened part only because the spices sometimes mess with me. Instead of the standard blanched fries, I wanted to try the mac and cheese that was on the menu. Other side choices were okra, cabbage & bacon, slaw, mashed potatoes, dirty rice, pickled beets and black-eyed pea & corn salad.
I glanced around the establishment as I waited, and took some notes. The inside is bright and spacious. There’s a long bench seat against the wall where Sweet Potatoes used to have traditional four and six top tables. This opens up the floor plan a little. The walls are adorned with local art that you can purchase. I was glad to see the old bar was still in there, it’s been around for a long, long time. It wasn’t overly loud like some of the local restaurants can be. The music was a little loud, but it wasn’t off-putting.
Sarah brought me the burger and it looked great! The meat was glistening and still very warm. It stacked straight and wasn’t drooped over, although the next person that had theirs delivered was presented open-faced. I don’t know why mine was different, but it didn’t matter, you could still see what you needed to. The burger was a perfect medium and quite juicy. I left all the veggies on (including lettuce which I usually never have) and took a big bite. Very good. My take on it is that it could have used a little more bleu cheese, either crumbles or in the compote, but it didn’t take away from the burger. I just like to have a blast of bleu cheese when it’s advertised as such. Again, though, the burger certainly didn’t suffer from this. It was one of the best that I’ve had not from my own kitchen in a while. The mac and cheese was decent.The overall flavor was good but it was a little watery. There were crispy browned parts that were a little overpowering. I pour Texas Pete on my mac and cheese and that added a little extra liquid to the wateriness. Now, that being said, it wasn’t bad mac and cheese and I wasn’t disappointed with my plate. I think this is something that will probably be worked on as they go. After all, they are just a week in from opening the doors.
My overall assessment of Trade Street Diner is that it has great potential. I may have been a little skeptical when I first learned of what is going in there, but my concerns were overridden by the reality in this case. I was very pleased and can’t wait to try more of their offerings in the near future.The price points were also very good. Again, this is only for their lunch menu as I haven’t been for dinner. That will happen soon. For you, readers and listeners of the podcast, I recommend this place. You won’t be sorry. If I was rating it on the burger alone, 4.5 out of 5. Very good stuff. The Lees and their partners have a good thing on their hands.