Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Uncle John's Diner

Forest Hills, NY

Review by Susu, MaceVindaloo, Rosie, ThePlazaQueen, SteakGril, Diana, Wraith6, Runt, Farklempt

"U.J." is purportedly "Uncle John," but we don't think any of these people are Uncle John. We don't even they they know Uncle John. If they did, Uncle John might kick their butts for the lousy way they deal with seating people. Now we know service in many diners can be marginal, but shouldn't you get the customers' butts into the seats and commit them to ordering? Rather than letting them hang by the door feeling unwanted and then walk out? We waited for 10 minutes before the guy in charge even acknowledged our presence, even though there was a table large enough for us within eyeshot. Come to think of it, we should have walked out, too? Several groups ahead of us did, so we got to the head of the line faster than it took for us to be actually seated. And we got seated because we started walking toward the aforementioned table, till they felt compelled to stop us. We said, "Oh, we thought it was self-seating despite your sign that reads 'Please wait to be seated' because you certainly weren't seating anyone." The guy in charge rushed around to seat us, then we didn't see him again. Good thing the server assigned to our table was less of an idiot or a jerk (albeit also slow ... do they train their staff to be like this on purpose??).

So why did we stay? Because some of us displaced Canadians love poutine, which is a concoction of fries and cheese curds smothered in gravy. It's hard to find in it's absolutely authentic form, but U.J.'s does a good simulation with mozzarella chunks. They also do great eggs, pancakes, etc. In other places in this country, pancakes are made from the same mix and the same griddles ordered by the same restaurant chains. In a town like New York with relatively few chains, every diner makes their flapjacks differently. At U.J.'s, they make them less fluffy, less dry, less tender, and they are good. Other places make them drier and fluffier, perfect for soaking up syrup and melted butter. But if you are not the syrup and butter type, U.J.'s makes dream-come-true pancakes. If you order "includes" like blueberries or bananas or chocolate chips, instead of putting those in the batter like other places might, they simple "dress" the stack with them -- the NYC cheesecake approach to making pancakes. The style of pancakes they make are good if you like to roll these includes into your pancakes, or make pigs-in-blankets with the sausages. They also make incredible fries, and some of us elected to have these instead of "breakfast potatoes" -- the hash of chopped potatoes, peppers, onions and spices they keep on the edge of the griddle to supplement your "big boy" meals. And though the front-of-the-house service is slow, the kitchen is not.

The decor is also cute. The restaurant occupies a renovated, converted service garage -- the type that would issue state inspections and tighten your timing belt in the old days. The seats are like the 1950s fantasy automobile backseats -- red or blue sparkly vinyl with contrasting v-shaped inserts on the backrests. The booths are very large and roomy, like the backseat of a Belle Aire. The tables are covered in pink or light blue formica with that great boomerang pattern. The rims of the tables are edges in that old-fashioned striped metal, just like your grandmother's kitchen table with the metal legs. The walls are adorned with 1940s and 1950s era movie posters from Hollywood and Germany, as well as 45-rpm records and working jukebox controls. It's very cute, and worth the angst of poor service.

The bill is reasonable too, but consistent with the negligent service we'd experienced thus far, where they forget to bring your water, etc., the check takes a long time to come. Since some of us knew this in advance, we asked for the check as soon as the food came to the table. By the time we were done, it did come. It's all about timing, and alas, that's the one thing U.J.'s lacks in it's service. But the food is good. So overall, we'd say go, but keep an open mind about how much time this might take, and remember than in terms of the timing of service, you need to work with their lack of understanding in this regard. If you do, you'll be happy.

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