I had been meaning to post about this a while ago, but got caught up in holiday prep and never got around to it.
A month ago, we were fortunate enough to be able to meet up with Rosie and her husband at Starliner Diner for dinner – we had a blast, and tons of excellent food.
If you’ve never been to Starliner Diner, it’s a little place in Hilliard (best described as a ‘hole in the wall’) that serves Cuban-Tex Mex fusion. The decor can best be described as kitschy and mismatched, the atomsphere boisterous and welcoming – it’s definitely a casual joint, so don’t bother dressing up in your finest. It’s one of the places that we hit regularly. When Rosie and I were trying to come up with somewhere to meet, I found out she had never been there, and knew right then she absolutely *had* to try this place.
We got seated immediately, even though the place was a bit busy, and got down to the business of ordering. The waitress was patient with us, giving us plenty of time to settle on something, as we were busy chit-chatting and getting to know each other.
We settled on a couple of appetizers to share – the plantains appetizer and black bean nachos.
The plantains appetizer is excellent – and consistently so. They saute perfectly ripe plantains until they are caramelized, sweet, and a little bit crunchy, and then serve them with a creamy pico de gallo dipping sauce that has just the right amount of bite. They are so good that I would happily go in there *just* to eat these.
The black bean nachos are good, but not outstanding. Topped with cheese, black beans, and some of their smoky red chili sauce, they are a good start to any meal, and a definite “safe” bet to please most palates.
For my entree, I chose the Fetuccine Calliente, a chicken and fettucine dish topped with a creamy chipotle sauce (hint: I’ve reproduced the recipe here, and the reason it tastes identical is because I buy the chili sauce from Starliner). It’s a huge serving, definitely enough for two meals, and is served with their Cuban bread and a salad. I have to admit, as many times as I’ve gone there, I seem to either get the Cuban sandwich or the fetuccine, unless there’s a good special that night – which brings me to another hint – check the specials board on your way in, some of the best dishes are listed there – the ropa vieja being my favorite of their recurring ones.
The side salad is one of the best in town, all fresh and crunchy and not stingy with the toppings. Topped with some of their creamy salsa, it pairs perfectly with any of the pasta dishes.
My husband opted for Big Steak Burrito, stuffed chock full of tender steak, beans, cheese, grilled onions, and smoked chili sauce, and then topped with chili sauce and cheese. It comes with a side of of white rice and black beans, which my husband said is perfect mixed together with McIlheney’s Mild Green Jalapeno Sauce. This is also served at lunchtime, and again, is quite the value for the price – anyone is hard pressed to finish this behemoth.
Starliner has a very limited dessert menu, but dessert is not why you’d go to Starliner – it’s all about the food, baby. They serve an excellent brunch, too. If you haven’t been there yet, you must. It’s one of the hidden gems of the Columbus metro area.
If you’d like to go: Starliner Diner, 5240 Cemetary Road, Hilliard, OH 43026, 614.529.1198 Hours: Tu W Th 9-3 and 5-9, Fri Sat 9-3 and 5-9:30, Sun 9-3, Closed Monday.