Hour Place no run-of-the-mill diner

Hour Place no run-of-the-mill diner

February 13th, 2014 by Clint Cooper in Chattnow Dining

A meat-and-two selection at Hour Place Restaurant includes, from bottom, Italian chopped steak with barbecue sauce, green beans and roasted potatoes.

Photo by Staff Photo by Clint Cooper

Like ants to sugar, nurses in scrubs and technicians with dangling name badges kept coming. Some dined in, some carried out, but the steady stream continued past noon, past 1 p.m. and beyond.

Hour Place Restaurant, in the Whitehall Medical Building across from Erlanger, is a busy place.

My brother says he's seen lines out the door.There must be something good going on there. I wanted to find out for myself.

THE MENU

Hour Place offers options such as burgers ($3.79-$4.79), sandwiches ($3-$4.99), salads ($6.79-$7.49), wraps ($4.29-$4.99) and pitas ($4.59-$4.99) that you can get any weekday. For something a little different, you also can try the chicken Craisin salad ($7.49), Cobb salad ($7.49) or fried pickles ($4).

The restaurant also has a lunch buffet. A check of the website gives the daily selections.

On the day we were there, it offered pasta salad, black-bean salad, tomato/olive salad, green beans, roasted potatoes, barbecue chicken, chicken tenders and Italian chopped steak, among other things.

You can make your selection several ways: an entree and two sides with cornbread for $6.79, three small sides with cornbread for $4.59 or individual veggies for $1.59 (small serving) and $2.29 (large).

If that weren't enough, there are also daily specials. That fare, on our visit, included pesto pita pizza, pepperoni pizza or a California chicken wrap.

Hour Place also doubles as a breakfast place, with items such as sandwiches, burritos and omelets among the selections.

THE ORDER

Though the wraps, pitas and either a steak Philly or chicken Philly were tempting, I opted for the meat-and-two ($6.79). The hand-breaded chicken tenders are apparently a specialty, and they were briefly out, so I selected the chopped steak with green beans and roasted potatoes.

I'm not a huge fan of chopped steak, but this one had cheese, grilled onions and grilled mushrooms. They were onions and mushrooms you could see, too - not a minced onion here and there and a piece or two of a mushroom. Not too bad.

The green beans and roasted potatoes were out of this world, though. I don't know how they season either one - maybe paprika in the beans and kosher salt on the potatoes - but the seasoning made the difference.

Both compare to the best I've ever had - my sister-in-law Pat's green beans and some new potatoes I ate at a party in Brainerd Hills years ago. If nothing else, I'll be back for a vegetable plate of those two items.

My brother had a chicken-salad sandwich ($4), which was handsomely filled with chicken salad and was topped with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. He favors chicken salad without an overabundance of celery. He said this fit the bill and had a good consistency to boot.

He said his crinkle-cut French fries were nothing special.

We also split a special-of-the-day banana cupcake with peanut-butter frosting, chocolate and walnuts. Neither one of us are big cupcake consumers, but we agreed this was different and tasty.

THE SERVICE

You serve yourself cafeteria-style at the buffet at Hour Place, and short orders are placed at the counter and then brought to your table.

Fountain drinks are available at the cash register, but bottled soft drinks, waters and Monster energy drinks may be plucked from coolers and brought to the cashier.

Plasticware is self-serve, and napkins are on the table. Waste bins are available to deposit trash, but a staff member came by to take our trash before we could get up.

The staff, which apparently sees many repeat customers, was friendly with all. The staff members were so comfortable that several sang lightly along with the songs that played above the din of the restaurant.

THE SPACE

The dining area is not much bigger than a patient room at Erlanger across the street, but it offers five two-top tables, four four-tops and five seats along a bar. The little place is decorated in yellow and red, and every effort seems to have been made to make the place a cheery place for a bite.

Two small drawbacks are the lack of restrooms and dearth of free parking. For a restroom, you have to go to the second floor of the building. Since most of the restaurant's clientele is a captive audience - in the hospital and adjacent medical offices - parking is not much of an issue. We were lucky to find a parking spot along the road in back of the building, though. And paid parking in one of the medical buildings is also an option.

THE VERDICT

There's a reason Hour Place is a busy restaurant at the breakfast and lunch hours. It's more than a diner. It offers what you might expect from a diner but with a wider variety, good food and a friendly atmosphere. I'll be back soon.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.