I had never lived outside of New England when I moved to Texas in 2015. When I went to diners, I quickly learned a tough lesson: hot open-faced turkey sandwiches are a regional specialty up North. Even in Virginia, they are far from prolific. Finding one that’s prepared exactly as I desire? Even harder.
But it finally happened. I found the holy grail. Freshly roasted turkey in an ample pool of yellow gravy. It’s at City Diner in Falls Church.
City Diner is a trip. A trip to the past, specifically. Buddy Holly is on the stereo. TVs play vintage game shows and the 1985 Super Bowl.
It’s not easy to choose what to order at City Diner. The menu isn’t quite New-York-diner gigantic, but breakfast is served all day, and there are enough pages to cause some quandaries.
My mother still brags that the first solid food I ever ate was a diner pastitsio, and I remain a devotee to the Greek dish. Chicken Parm? I’m sure it’s great, too. On the breakfast menu, it’s not easy to turn down Eggs Benedict over gyro meat. My other half went for the flesh-filled Lumberjack Breakfast with a massive stack of fluffy pancakes.
But thinking wasn’t necessary for me. I had been craving hot turkey for years. What I got was just short of a platonic ideal. If I hadn’t found the double piles of bread beneath the tender turkey a bit excessive, it would have belonged in that literary cave.
Creamy gravy slowly melts the white bread beneath the meat, but lies just beside the crispy, optimally seasoned battered fries, waiting for a liberal dipping. Canned cranberry sauce on the side has a few whole berries in the mix. Even the mixed vegetables, words I usually dread, is a flavorful collection centered around broccoli.
For fellow diners who once thought America’s streets were paved with golden hot turkey, it’s a most welcome return to form. // 5616 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church
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