Juicy, fresh, grilled burgers. The Diner Burger has bacon, mushroom, caramelized onions, provolone cheese, lettuce, and tomato. The Classic Burger can be served with cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, pimento cheese, or chili for $1 extra for each add-on. Daddy’s Blue Cheeseburger has blue cheese, onions, jalapenos, lettuce and tomato.
The Diner serves fun entrees such as Fat Albert’s Favorite – a classic southern BBQ sandwich topped with cheddar and served with baked beans – or Nonna’s Meatloaf “Grandma,” with a wild mushroom sauce, creamy mashed potatoes and vegetables. Try the fried green tomato sandwich, a New York Reuben, liver and onions, spaghetti and meatballs, Cajun shrimp and grits, chicken fried chicken and specials like a chicken pot pie.
Manager Jamie Putnal describes the restaurant as “good American diner food with a fine dining twist.” Customers can get a traditional Cobb salad or a distinct 12-pepper hanger steak salad, or daily specials such as Yankee pot roast or a New England Lobster roll. For dinner there is everything from a 12-ounce rib eye steak with fries and vegetables to pan-roasted salmon with sweet chili glaze. Desserts include Southern pecan pie, lemon berry mascarpone cream cake, Not Yo’Grama’s Banana Cream Pie, loaded chocolate brownie, ice cream and chocolate pound cake. The Diner also caters. For large parties or tail-gating, there are full pans of Italian sausage with peppers and onions, chicken etouffe with rice, penne pasta with marinara, and other entrees as well as deli trays, salads, and items such as Diner pimento cheese by the pound.
Chef Fulvio Valsecchi knows food. He has owned Ristorante Divino for almost 17 years.
Open only for dinner, this Columbia establishment is known for its fine dining menu and atmosphere. Valsecchi says he passed by the building – the site of a former Chinese restaurant – on Fort Jackson Boulevard for many years, and always thought to himself how that would make a great location for a fun, diner-style restaurant. Opened in January, The Diner is the brainchild of Valsecchi from the diner theme to the menu. He wanted to make sure not only the food was good and unique, but that the presentation of the food and the ambiance was more upscale than a traditional diner.
With 45,000 people at Fort Jackson, The Diner has a large market base in close proximity. Families, friends, and couples are beginning to designate The Diner as their meeting place. Churchgoers are especially enjoying Sunday brunch. “There aren’t many restaurants that serve Sunday brunch in Columbia,” says Putnal, “and now that we’re (open) for breakfast, we expect regulars early weekday mornings as well.”
Adds Valsecchi, “With the exception of Ruby Tuesdays and Applebee’s, there really are not many restaurants in this area. The opening of Whole Foods soon will transform this area, we believe.”
Fresh colors, contemporary glass hanging lights and modern metal fans define the spaces. Local artists’ works adorn the walls, including paintings of hot dogs, hamburgers and a chicken on a motorcycle by local artist Ernest Lee (aka “Chicken Man). Each painting is for sale. In the entryway are painted crates that are turned on their side and attached to the wall. They serve as shelves for local or South Carolina-grown and packaged items for sale. Above the crates is a large chalkboard advertising specials. Also on some walls are silhouettes of people in ’50s dance moves. The Diner seats 120 and there is a small bar with a featured wine selection.