I found a fun online discussion recently: “Which words and expressions from the past do you still like to use today?”
I have some favorites and I’m sprinkling a few of them in this column for fun. But The Classic is anything but archaic.
On the contrary, the former Benjy’s location on Washington Avenue is glistening, pristine — a very 2018 interpretation of an all-day diner. You’ll have no trouble parking your horseless in The Classic’s expansive lot.
Inside, all the dark woods are now bright white. (It was generally agreed that this Benjy’s location had good food but horrible décor.) Colors have emerged — muted blues and avocados may evoke the 1970s but really, this is Local Foods, also part of the Benjy’s family, writ large. There’s even a mural-size map of the neighborhood, a Local Foods signature.
Alas, when The Classic opened in August, some would-be patrons found the menu a little too wholesome. Expecting an elevated Avalon Diner or Barnaby’s, they instead found Crispy Rice Salad, Grain Bowls and Hamachi.
True, these may be hard sells in Houston. I saw Facebook comments along the line of “We took one look at the menu and left.” But I declare, don’t give up! Stay! And enjoy the wonderful dishes at The Classic.
Besides, The Classic does have a burger. And pasta. And steak, eggs and pancakes. And cocktails!
On my visit, I sampled a few things. Matzo Ball Soup was a thing of beauty. It’s usually made with chicken broth, but this broth was earthier, beefier. I slurped with abandon and appreciated the little teapot with extra broth inside. And I’m sure the delicious matzo ball had healthy, ancient grains mixed in with the traditional meal.
The seduction continued with Pelmeni Dumplings. Somewhat related to pierogis in Polish cuisine, these dumplings hail from Russia. Instead of a traditional meat filling, The Classic makes them over with a mushroom, rye and hazelnut stuffing. They’re soft on the outside and, topped with crème fraiche and dill, are mind-blowing.
The BLT is a time-honored diner favorite, but The Classic’s PLT takes it to a new level. Pancetta subs for bacon, giving the sandwich a less smoky but no less porky flavor. Seeded bread kept to the healthy theme, as did an avocado-feta spread in place of mayo. Arugula peppered the whole thing up in a way mere lettuce never could.
Did I mention cocktails? I certainly did to my attentive and friendly server. El Diablo is a simple concoction of tequila, crème di cassis and ginger wort (the “starter” syrup used in making ginger ale). It’s served with a lemon twist and the result is a bright, uplifting cocktail that would be good for brunch or any time of day.
I didn’t try the burger. I’ll save the steak, or the rotisserie chicken, for another time. But I love The Classic for its modern spin on a wide variety of foods. It’s a classic in its own time.