M. Wells Diner - 21-17 49th Avenue, Long Island City NY 11101
7 Train to Hunters Point Avenue
7 Train to Hunters Point Avenue
M.Wells Diner has certainly built up popularity since its recent soft opening about a month ago. A Quebecan twist on traditional diner food, it's raised a lot of eyebrows (and crinkled some noses), but overall the response has been very positive. It's refreshing to see that people have a hunger for originality and good quality ingredients. I share that hunger too and had to give it a try last week for lunch.
Located in an area of LIC that's still industrialized and not as charming as the neighborhood near the Vernon/Jackson stop, it's nice to see that establishments such as this one are livening things up. While the outside of the diner has a very typical, old-fashioned facade, the interior is slightly more charming. There are several rustic, communal tables to the left of the entrance, decked with small vases with wild flowers. A sprinkling of booths are found on the opposite side for parties of two to four and a long counter up front for people dining solo and those who want to observe the goings-on in the kitchen.
I appreciated the open atmosphere and having that prime access to the chefs and the kitchen staff. It was almost like being behind the scenes except there you were, looking into their world. I enjoyed this voyeuristic aspect very much, even though I felt like I shouldn't be looking - but clearly I observed and soaked everything in. It's almost like getting a front row seat in the theater...a food theater of sorts.
M. Wells is currently serving breakfast and lunch, as they open their doors at 7 a.m. and close at 3 p.m. On the menu, you'll find unique spins on classic breakfast and lunch dishes such as an egg baked in tomato stew, tortilla Espanola (a Spanish style omelet), a Cubano sandwich elevated to the next level and much more. For my meal, I went with the special, a Patee Chinois, which is a Quebecan shepherd's pie and some good old fashioned chocolate ice cream.
Patee Chinois - I was immediately intrigued after listening to my waitress describe this dish - "a Quebecan shepherd's pie with braised pork tongue and fresh corn topped with a creamy dollop of mashed potatoes and a crust of parmesan cheese." Wow! This was right up my alley and I couldn't wait for it to arrive. When it did, it smelled divine and bubbled like hot lava. My first bite was heavenly, as I tried the pork tongue, which was surprisingly tender and juicy. This wasn't a lean type of meat at all but that's what made it so damn tasty and succulent--and the corn kernels that were interspersed throughout gave each bite a nice crunch. The mashed potatoes and the crusty cheese on top sealed the deal with even more decadence, and because the whole thing was so rich (and so not a hot summer meal), I was only able to eat half of it. But I took the rest home and savored it a few days later.
Chocolate Frozen Custard - This dessert sounded really interesting and different but boy was I fooled (or is it that I'm incredibly dense?!) because it was actually ice cream. DOH! I guess when you put two and two together, that is the definition of ice cream. Anyway, whichever way you put it, it was really, really tasty and really, really rich. Each bite did indeed taste like a luxurious custard that slowly dissolved on your tongue. It might've been totally psychological, but I think it was the best "frozen custard" I've ever had!
Service and Cost:
I had two waitresses who were both great and super knowledgeable about the menu. It seemed like they not only knew about the contents of each dish but also about where its ingredients came from. I was quite impressed with this and it seemed like everyone (including the waitstaff) had some sort of stake in this place. And that...I think is a good thing.
Costs are moderate for a diner and include:
Breakfast - $3.50 - $12
Lunch - $5 - $12
Dessert - $3.50 -$5