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Friday, 25 January 2013

Urban Diner and Another Biology Lesson

In wildlife biology, a "generalist" is an species noted for its ability to live in a wide range of habitat conditions and eat many different kinds of things (think raccoon and coyote). Conversely, a "specialist" is a species that is adapted to living in a very narrow range of habitat conditions and consuming only specific kinds of food (like woodland caribou or black-footed ferrets). While one isn't really better than the other, being a specialist can increase risk of extinction if conditions suddenly change. In those instances, being a generalist can be the difference between thriving and vanishing.

Parallels, naturally, exist in the world of restaurants. A specialist might serve a very narrow range of dishes or only be open for limited hours. This is dandy, presuming that the public palate does not drastically change. A generalist serves a wide range of food and might even serve the three main meals of the day.


The Urban Diner falls into the latter category; breakfast, lunch, and supper items grace its menu and items on said menu cannot be placed into one specific culinary category. I've tried their brunch and quite like it, and have wondered how their supper menu measures up. We try a Salmon Burger with a side of broccoli-cheddar soup. The salmon patty is moist and lovely, but its crown of mango salsa is extremely unwieldy. The mango chunks ought to be much smaller to keep from falling off the burger with every bite. A greater hit of cilantro would be welcome. The soup is besmirched by heavy-handed thyme that draws attention away from the broccoli.


A Pulled-Pork sandwich on a soft onion roll is complemented by a melted slice of cheddar. Its barbecue sauce is tangy on its own, but some sweetness from caramelized onions or maple-grilled apples would be welcome. A house salad is brimming with peppers and tomatoes.

With reference to my earlier lecture, being a generalist (in the culinary sense) means that one can appeal to a wide range of palates and preferences, but an obvious downside is that the sum of the parts does not always equal the whole. I enjoyed components of both dishes, but supper did not quite clear the bar set by breakfast.


Urban Diner (Downtown) on Urbanspoon

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