Rosie's Diner took the '50s thing and ran with it, hard: oldies music, checkerboard décor, neon, the works. That didn't turn out so well, so the north side location is now Diggy's Diner, a similar concept started by Ron and Catherine Mast, and fronted by a hip, four-legged mascot of the genus Canis lupus Fonzarelli, who is, as the tagline says, "always rockin'." (Poochie from The Simpsons, anyone?)
It fits the upbeat feel the space still has, though there have been a few changes: Paul Anka's been swapped for Aerosmith; the restaurant's no longer full-service, with the classic-car host stand now serving as an order counter; and the Masts have added some interesting-for-a-diner items, like fish tacos ($6.99) and a pretzel roll Reuben ($6.49).
And though those new items produce some mixed results, it's still nice to see someone shaking it up, even if just a little bit.
Take the tacos: Served with a salty side of pudding-smooth refried beans, they're not perfect. The fish, a variety of mild, farmed shark catfish called swai, is kind of mushy, while the carrot straws are really dry. But the batter tastes good, the three, single corn tortilla rounds hold up nicely, and the pickled jalapeño pico pairs pretty well.
Same with the Reuben: It won't blow you away, with its modest amount of dry-ish corned beef, but the shiny pretzel is a fun twist. Even if it all gets a little soggy, it's still an adequate eat.
Continuing with the mixed-bag trend, the thin, spicy green chili in the Huevos Ranchero platter ($6.99) is delicious, as are the homemade (if under-seasoned) potato chips, but the over-easy eggs (next to an un-toasted tortilla) were cooked almost through. The ice cream in the chocolate shake ($2.49), also homemade, is nice and thick, but the chocolate sauce tastes cloying.
Taking a more downward direction is a just-miserable Shamrock Benedict ($7.99). The pale yellow Hollandaise is OK, but ours started to separate upon arrival, and the moist tomato round was torn apart. Meanwhile, the inedible corned beef hash had a consistency reminiscent of a pile of soaked tissues.
The square personal pizza ($4.99), ours with pineapple and bacon, was a little better, but not by much. It came with good pineapple and thick bacon bits, but the crust, sauce and cheese tasted just like elementary-school pizza.
In fact, the whole place has a sort of cafeteria feel to it now, with people getting their own drinks and wallet-friendly prices. Plus it's lively as hell during lunch, a sign that the surrounding workers appreciate its proximity.
And, actually, lunch food is what you should probably stick to, especially entrées like the 5 Alarm burger ($5.99). As a matter of course, the meat's cooked until well done, but not burnt, then topped with pepper jack cheese, earthy red chili, more of that spicy green chili, jalapeños and grilled onions. It's a complete mess on its soft bun, and should probably be eaten with a fork, but it's like a bit of childhood, made lunch. Throw in a side of crunchy, sweet onion rings and you're good to go, dawg.