Published July 07. 2011 4:00AM Updated February 28. 2012 12:53PM
Diner food offers that singular staple that so many of us, at one time or another, crave above all other things: breakfast for dinner.
Whether you call it "brinner," class it up with fritattas, or just go for a messy night of waffles and ice cream, the ultimate comfort food very well may be pancakes/scrambled eggs/hash browns for dinner.
Next time you get a hankering for flapjacks as entrée, consider a trip to Cristy's on Route 1 in Westbrook. With its recent addition of a coffee bar, this nearly no-frills diner just racked a few more points in the creature comforts column.
Now, all diners will probably offer breakfast all day, but all diners do not offer approximately 40 types of pancakes. From standards like blueberry and banana pancakes to strokes of genius like sausage pancakes and Reese's Pieces pancakes, one could be convinced to go through the whole list or die happily trying. Even better than plain blueberry or banana pancakes are Cristy's famous "oatmeal crunch" style pancakes: take a basic blueberry pancake, and add a layer of sweet but not too sweet oat-ey granola mixture. Oatmeal crunch cakes come in four flavors, and if the other three (blueberry oatmeal crunch, blueberry-raspberry oatmeal crunch, and raspberry oatmeal crunch) are as satisfying as the banana crunch, I just might have a new preferred pancake style. The crunch layer adds a perfect bit of toothiness to the nice, thick pancake — a nice counterpart to the plump banana slices.
Suggestion: for the ultimate breakfast, order just one pancake (your waitress will ask you how many you'd like) and get a side of corned beef hash. A "side" of hash is a mountain of corned beef, potatoes, and onions that could easily feed three people eating nothing else. It's flavorful, not overly greasy (some hashes I've tried have become rock-like balls of misery once consumed), and the chefs don't skimp on the corned beef. You get sink-your-teeth-into-this hunks of corned beef throughout.
But OK, maybe you're in the market for some comfort food but you had pancakes for breakfast. I suggest Cristy's Ribeye Philly Cheese Steak sandwich. I'm not sure what the best part about that sandwich is: the nice roll? The tender steak? The diced peppers? (I like a small dice on my veggies in dishes like this; small dice vs. strips amounts to a better distribution and melding of ingredients.) Or maybe it's the expertly melted cheese that binds all of the above together. Not sure, but it's a well-executed, delicious take on a classic comfort food. Among the many choices of side dishes for sandwiches (fries, chips, sweet potato fries) is potato salad, which was very, very good. It was chunky and not sopped in mayo and had a nice little zip (celery seed maybe?).
We also tried the chicken parmesan sandwich, which, again, arrived on a well-chosen, soft roll, topped with just the right amount of sauce. It didn't knock my socks off, but it was adequate and fairly satisfying.
If you're feeling a little fancier, try the Cajun chicken Alfredo. It's a nice dish of penne NOT drowned in Alfredo sauce — indeed, this Alfredo tastes like it's truly made of cheese unlike others I've had — topped with Cajun-seasoned chicken breast. The chicken on the plate I sampled was perfectly moist and the seasoning was mild but flavorful.
And speaking of mild and flavorful, my table was pleasantly surprised by the house-made salsa that came with our quesadilla appetizer. I'm super fussy about salsa and tend to hate most cocktail-sauce-in-disguise most eateries pass off as salsa. Cristy's gets it right with a basic tomato-based salsa that's reminiscent of gazpacho in its brightness and like a good Bloody Mary in its peppery zip. As for the quesadilla, what would've been one of the better ones I've had could've used a few more minutes under heat. The tortilla was nicely crisp, but the cheese hadn't quite melted within.
Elsewhere on the apps menu, the onion rings gets a thumbs up, too. There seems to be attention paid to what goes in the batter, as the result is a ring that's tasty from the inside out.
I look forward to my next trip to Cristy's, when I plan to try the Yankee Pot Roast, which some regulars have recommended to me. Of course, I also have my eye on the pulled pork sandwich and the meatloaf, because, if the great dishes I've sampled thus far are any indicator, I'm in for many more good meals at great prices.