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Diamond Oysters Rockefeller
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Diamond dining room
Straight from the '60s
Let's be honest. If you Google the Diamond Grille, Akron's legendary steakhouse on West Market Street, you are going to truly get a mixed bag of reviews. Some people love it, some people hate it, some just think it's over-rated. Everyone agrees it's an anachronism and true trip back to another time. Personally, I've always thought the good outweighs the bad, and given the fact that the Diamond reputation is largely international, and based on the experiences of professional athletes in town for various events, I thought it only fair to try out the place again during Bridgestone/Firestone golf week.
I called for a reservation on pro-am day, knowing full well there would eventually be a full house that night. The person taking reservations was actually friendly and helpful, even after I told him I would be a single. You know, single diners are the hardest for a busy restaurant to fit in. He told me it would be a tight fit in a corner table, but that actually suited my needs better than sticking out in the middle of the dining room with my camera. I hate to intrude.
This proved to be the perfect location from which to observe the bar and the less formal side of the restaurant. If you've ever been there, you know that even after a fairly recent interior remodeling project, this is a restaurant that's a total throwback to the '60s. Everything is wood and white linen. It reminds me of a country club or English manor house dining room, and if they still allowed smoking in Ohio restaurants, I'm sure it would smell of leather and cigars.
Most of the policies and service are old school, too. This is a cash-only, no credit cards, place, but they will take your check or (and this is pretty unbelievable in this day and age) let you sign the back of your check, and they'll send you a bill later! If you watch what's going on at the bar, you can tell a lot of the regulars are not only well-known, but allowed to settle monthly tabs. Truly, the place is more like a club than a public restaurant.
Although the wait staff is currently all female, they operate very much like the sort of fine dining restaurants with tuxedoed waiters and busboys. They have enough staff that no server is overloaded with tables, and while they don't hover (thank goodness!), they are prompt and good at anticipating your needs. They also understand the pace of service and consuming a good meal. Even though they were very busy, I never felt they were trying to rush me out the door so they could turn the table.
The menu is just as traditional and clubby. The backbone is is prime beef and fresh fish, with just enough lamb and pork chops to make sure they can handle your mood for something else. There is a long list of old-fashioned appetizers, and with Oysters Rockefeller available as a special for the night, how could I resist? It's been years since I’ve had the dish, and this was a well-prepared example...plump fresh Washington oysters with chopped spinach, anise liqueur, hot pepper sauce and a topping of bread crumbs and melted cheese. Matched with a Blue Sapphire Martini (cocktail onions in mine, if you please, Mr. Bartender!) is was a great start.
Every steak comes with a choice of potatoes, a house salad, and a garnish of beer batter onion rings. I always think the tastiest steak cut is the bone-in ribeye as the bone lends a lot of flavor to the meat. It is also a good test of the restaurant's buying, selection, and meat cutting preparations, because it really takes a prime cut ribeye to be almost as tender as a fillet. This one certainly passed muster, and on several other counts as well. First, it was a generous inch-and-a-quarter thick. Second, it was well-charred on the outside, yet still medium rare red in the middle. Third, it was seasoned to perfection, very beefy, just the right saltiness, and a hint of herb butter. The next day, I still had about a quarter-pound left for a steak and eggs breakfast, and it was still nearly perfect out of the microwave.
I chose the home fries over the baked potato or french fries on the theory you can get those anywhere, but home fries test the chef. I was really glad. These were the thinly sliced variety, fried on the grill in layers. Mine were crispy brown on the outside, nice and soft on the inside, and needed only a bit of salt and pepper at the table. If I had thought, I would have ordered a side of sour cream.
My salad was very fresh, and finished with a creamy Roquefort dressing. It was accompanied by a couple of seeded and salted breadsticks that were excellent for cleansing the palate.
As you might expect, the Diamond Grill is expensive, although not outrageous compared to other fine dining establishments. Most steaks will be between $34 and $40, with the fish dishes slightly less. The fish menu is extensive, with salmon, tuna, walleye, perch and other seafood. The menu claims it is the best seafood around, an interesting brag for a steakhouse.
The Diamond Grille is located at 77 W. Market in a building that really doesn't look like it should house a fine restaurant. Don't be put off by outside appearances or the gravel parking lot in front of a car dealership; as with people, it's what is on the inside that matters. No wonder it's popular with the pro golfers; they're used to playing out of the rough!