Shari’s diner has only been Shari’s Diner for a little over two years. It was originally 5 & Diner, complete with silver-sided building, Formica counters and shiny red booths with mini-jukeboxes. (It was a Cuban café for a short time, also.) It looks the same now, and the menu is mostly what you’d expect: classic ’50s Americana. The differences can be found in go-the-extra-mile service and an intense desire to provide good, affordable food.
And it’s working. Things are going well at Shari’s. It is becoming a favorite easy dinner and weekend breakfast for the not-quite-in-Summerlin set, who lovingly write “Love the food!” notes that get stuck on the restaurant’s walls and send tons of e-mail to the Food Network in hopes of landing a visit from Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
There are a few things Shari and crew need to work on, however, before Guy Fieri comes calling. Most of the appetizers, along with the crunchy, honey-kissed fried chicken, are not made in-house. And the kitchen could use some help on its soups and sauces. Breakfast gravy is well-peppered but tastes starchy, and Chef Collette’s Home Made Clam Chowder is dreadfully yellow and buttery.
With the exception of those items, the menu is full of fresh ingredients, colorful veggies stacked on perfect, half-pound burgers, solid salads and terrific potatoes in various traditional forms (fries, hash browns or homemade chips). The Signature burger has bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato, onion and cheddar on a brioche bun and is pretty much everything you could want in an American cheeseburger. The more outlandish burgers are tasty, too, especially the Popeye, with fresh spinach, bacon, feta cheese and lemon zest. Another burger is stuffed with gooey brie and topped with apple slices. The kitchen is not afraid to experiment. A more familiar and very flavorful lunch option is the Big Tex, which plants a juicy grilled chicken breast on Texas toast with grilled onions, a Chipotle mayo sauce, cheese and bacon.
Pot roast, meatloaf, tuna melt, BLT … all the greatest hits are here. For breakfast, the Stink’n Link’n scramble has more feta and spinach, combined with mushroom and stacked on top of crispy country potatoes. Decent waffles and omelets and a rich fried-egg sandwich round out the morning options, and check your tabletop for info on early bird specials and all-you-can-eat spaghetti night. The time machine is in full effect.
Aside from the burgers, it’s possible nothing else at Shari’s Diner will knock you out, but the simplistic strategy is paying off. Why would anyone go to Chili’s or Applebee’s for family-friendly recession specials when you can pay less for better food at locally operated mom-and-pops like this one? This neighborhood has caught on, and the hard-working, friendly crew at Shari’s is reaping the benefits.