For me to be impressed by you, there are certain criteria that need to be met. In life, as with food, one must be honest and straightforward, with substance always leading style. It’s extremely difficult to fill this need when the focus is on basic Americana diner type cuisine.
There has been a renaissance of diners in central Florida for the better part of the last 5 years. A handful of unique dining venues, that provide a special touch to the genre, have popped up throughout the greater Tampa and Orlando areas. Sadly though, these kinds of places have, for the most part, missed my off ramp.
This is where the Main Street Diner provides some much-needed solace.
As I turned down Main St. to take part in my routine work out, I decided that I just wasn’t feeling it. So what do you do when you’re either too lazy or too busy to exercise? Do the exact opposite of course. In my case that means feasting until I fall asleep. I phoned my boss and asked if he wanted anything. He knows me, and my ways. Therefore, his knee jerk response always sounds something like, “I could eat. Surprise me.” When someone gives you free rein on their meal, you can be certain they trust you with their life.
Not knowing where my next meal would come from, I zipped past the gym and began the hunt, which didn’t take long. Maybe 30 seconds and a few hundred yards away, I spotted a renovated drive-thru that has been home to at least 10 failures in the past 5 years. You always need to give every new local business at least one chance in my opinion, and this seemed as good of a day as any.
Walking in, not knowing anything about this place or the owners or the food, is a rush. I have no expectations. Actually, I honestly had low expectations. Being burned as many times as I have tends to do that to a man. When I first laid eyes on the menu, it felt like I was Nicholas Cage deciphering a riddle on the back of the Declaration of Independence, leading me to the secret location of the original Liberty Bell. Just like that, but substitute Liberty Bell for honey dipped fried chicken.
Fried Chicken. Something so simple, yet few know how to prepare it properly in this neck of the woods. I was not expecting the Main Street Diner to provide me with such an amazing rendition, but that’s exactly what they did. In my pantheon, it was among the best I’ve had, and it stands out far above any other restaurant that’s tried their hand. I didn’t bother asking how it was made, whether it had been brined or not. It doesn’t really matter to me since I have no plan to steal their technique. I simply plan on frequenting this establishment for my chicken fix. Just so you skeptics understand before passing judgement, the chicken isn’t overly sweet. The honey does not overpower the savory elements found in the batter, so concern yourselves with more pressing matters.
As for my boss, he was in for a real treat. Remember the restaurant chain Bennigans? Yeah me too, it sucked. The one thing that was half-way decent other than the Turkey O’Toole, was the Monte Cristo, Affectionately referred to as the Monte Crisco due to the coma inducing grease to sandwich ratio. Main Street does their version of it but they treat it more respectfully. They use challah bread and treat it more like a french toast sandwich than a deep-fried battered nap time meal. Along side a cup of not too sweet berry dipping sauce and a basket of waffle fries, this dish may single-handedly put me in line for a promotion! Who am I kidding…
All in all, I truly can not wait to re-visit this place. Actually, I’ve been back 3 times since my first visit!
*Update. The Hot Honey Garlic Chicken Wings I ordered on my most recent visit have almost filled the void left when Natalie’s closed her doors.
You need to go if for nothing else than for the incredible fried chicken. But there are many other specialty items that makes their menu unique. I would venture to say that most residents of Lakeland have failed to discover The Main Street Diner. If you fall into this group, it’s time for change!