Our Mom and Kid team take on Starliner Diner in Hilliard.
THE MOM SAYS
For the record, I would just like to state that Elvis was popular waaay before my teenage years. That said, I do have to admit that I've known the Starliner Diner from way back when it was the Galaxy Cafe up in Powell. We didn't follow it to Hilliard when the current owner spun off this casual eatery with a Cuban-influenced menu (and Cajun and Creole touches, too) in 1994, so it was a nice trip down memory lane to eat their food again. (But, again, it was not a trip down the Elvis memory lane.)
Somehow I remember being more consistently wowed by the food at the Galaxy Cafe. The Roast Pork entree ($11.75) at Starliner just didn't have a whole lot of flavor. In fact, it was almost bland, but I remedied that by augmenting it with chorizo sausage I stole from my daughter's off-menu special Azteca Chicken ($12), which was just the sort of imaginative cooking I remembered from the old Galaxy days.
My husband's Big Chicken Burrito ($8.75) also suffered by comparison to the past: He found the meat a little tough and not as flavorful as hoped. The black-beans-and-rice sides, though, were well made, as were the various salsas.
As for the Chili Lime Wings ($7.75) appetizer, well, that dish has shot onto the family list of all-time favorites (except for our son, but we have every reason to hope his taste will mature with time): The wings and drumsticks were large and freshly cooked, the skin was phenomenally crispy, and the Chili Lime sauce was more zesty than spicy, and that went down just fine with one of their generous-sized margaritas ($7).
The kids' menu was OK (it had the usual array of chicken fingers, spaghetti and burgers). I would love to see a place like Starliner Diner come up with entry-level cuisine for kids: It just seems like such a great opportunity to train kids' palates for future eating adventures. We've usually done that by ordering appetizers for the kids or sharing our own entrees with them, but I'd love to see a restaurant commit to enticing future foodies. So maybe kid-friendly versions of a few adult entrees? Just a thought.
I can't say enough good things about the service. The wait staff was knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and interacted well with the many young families I saw there. The bathrooms were a bit of an adventure. You certainly won't be changing diapers in either one (there is absolutely no room for that), but I kind of liked their quirky, tucked-into-an-oddly-shaped cornerness. Just be forewarned, though, that the Bosch art poster in the women's bathroom might prompt some interesting questions about the human body.
THE KID SAYS
I thought going to the Starliner Diner was like reminiscing from my mom's teenage years. It seemed like an old type of restaurant because it had the giant Elvis painting in there and the posters from that time. And it had stars, flying milkshakes and outer space-type things painted on the wall. (Oh wow, my mom just told me that Elvis was from before she was a teenager.)
And I wouldn't expect Caribbean food from a place like that. For an appetizer, my mom made me try Chili Lime Wings. They were spicy and hot, and I couldn't finish them because they were too spicy for me. Like I told my parents, my tastebuds are still kind of wimpy.
I also had the Chicken Quesadilla ($8.50). It's normally an appetizer but I had it for my entree instead. It was really good. It's not very spicy, which is good. I only like some cheese, like mozzarella and cheddar, but I guess now I like Monterey jack if that's the cheese that was in it. I could taste more cheese than chicken, but it was great.
I had my favorite drink, which is Yoo Hoo ($1.50). I used to nickname it "kid's coffee" because that's what I get when I go to the coffee shop with my dad. I also got a vanilla milkshake ($3) after I had the Yoo Hoo. I think I would have liked the chocolate milkshake more because the vanilla just tasted like milk.
The service was really good. The bathrooms were not ideal. They had an air freshener in there and a Febreeze can, which I definitely wanted to use. The bathroom was closet size.
Overall it wasn't my favorite but I might want to come back.