MALTA — The familiar 1950s silver diner on Route 9 is humming again; filled with people, noise, good food and good humor.
Dunning Street Station, opened in June, is owned by experienced restaurateurs Bob McKenna and Executive Chef Scott Ringwood, proprietors of the on-its-way-to-iconic Lake Ridge Restaurant not far away.
The small, art-deco style diner is lined with streamlined stainless steel that really comes into its own when the sun sets and it reflects twinkling candles and well-placed halogen spots.
There are tables for two and four, a small bar with stools, and more seating in a dining area addition.
The decor is barely adorned, precisely restored quintessential diner. It’s just right.
Small plates and starters are refined, calamari is tossed with artichokes and banana peppers, they’ve got warm kalamata olives, and duck confit, ahi tuna and maple pulled pork sliders. Flatbreads (think pizza) are topped with goat cheese and fig, or steak and blue cheese.
But there’s wings and burgers, too. An 8-ounce burger with fries is $10.50.
There are a few entree-style dishes on the menu: salmon, a flat iron steak, fish and chips, a vegetarian choice.
There is a small, select assortment of wines, and 16 craft beers on tap. We nursed our wine through the meal, Matua Sauvignon blanc for me, Luda Nuda Pinto Grigio for Mom ($8 each), served in Riedel glasses as simple and elegant as the surroundings.
We started with four warm pretzels served with jalapeno four-cheese sauce ($9).
The heat cut the richness of the sauce, which seemed like way too much but disappeared quickly, what with Mom fishing out the jalapenos with a fork, and me pulling the soft pretzels into ever smaller pieces before dunking.
I chose the Korean chicken pasta ($15), a stir-fry style dish of chicken and vegetables. It’s seasoned with sesame oil and soy sauce, and it’s colorful, with red and yellow peppers, carrot planks and spinach, tossed with gluten-free Asian noodles.
It was healthy and tasty, although a few tweaks would make it better, like serving the chicken in smaller, bite-sized pieces, as the smart white square bowl prohibited slicing.
The tasty sauce did a good job of bringing ingredients together, more so as it cooled and thickened, but it might benefit from a lighter hand with the salty soy sauce.
Mom chose apple-brined pork ($21.95) from the Octoberfest menu, which included schnitzel and wieners accompanied by German potato salad and red cabbage.
Brining assures moist meat, and it produced an extremely tender result. Pork chops can be lean and flavorless, but this pan-fried chop had tasty, crisp breading, which helped a great deal, as did the rich, dark mushroom gravy. The meat was soft and pleasant-tasting.
She liked the the warm German potato salad and the sweet-and-sour shredded red cabbage, made in-house, as is everything on the menu.
Service was friendly and adequate but a bit uneven; we were still enjoying the pretzels when our entrees arrived.
The tab for our food, before tax and tip, came to $45.95.
The words refined, classic and American sum up Dunning Street Station — both the diner and its food.
Dunning Street Station
WHERE: 2853 US Route 9, Malta, 587-2000, www.dunningstreetstation.com
WHEN: Monday to Sunday, 3-10 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $45.95 for food, before tax and tip
MORE INFO: Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover. ADA compliant. Reservations for parties of 6 or more