S&S Diner Proves That Not All Change Is Good

Categories: Review
Diner INT 1 RZ.jpg
Photo by Ily Goyanes
In this city of cookie-cutter architecture and assembly line cosmetic enhancements, "classic" is usually dismissed as "old." S&S Diner, appropriately situated inside Allen's Drug Store in South Miami, is an apple-pie-sweet respite from an otherwise cold, harsh reality...at least for those of us who still consider the word "old" to mean "vintage."

When I was a kid, my mom would take my brother and me to Picnic's Diner inside Allen's Drug Store. It was a treat for us Cuban kids to chow down on good old American classics like meatloaf and macaroni and cheese--food that our dear abuelita could not replicate, no matter how good a cook she was. I think that is where I first fell in love with American food--or it could have been the counter diner at the old Walgreen's in downtown Miami--but nevertheless, a well-made meatloaf, with mashed potatoes and green beans remains one of this Cuban's favorite meals.

Fortunately for me, S&S took up where Picnic's left off. The owners, Nancy Cajaraville and Carlos Cardona took over the space in August of 2009 on a fluke. The owner of the famed S&S Diner on NE Second Avenue had leased the space at Allen's because the other spot was scheduled to be torn down for condos. The deal, like the rest of the real estate market fell through and he was stuck with a second diner on Bird Road that he didn't need. Mr. and Mrs. C stopped in for breakfast one day and Viola! It was diner serendipity.

I normally try a few different things from the menu when I'm doing a review, but as soon as I saw the section of the menu titled "comfort foods," I knew I was home. The meatloaf ($10.95) at S&S is pretty good. Actually, it's very darn good. And so are the mashed potatoes (homemade) and the macaroni cheese and the Cole slaw. The green beans were fresh, not canned, which is probably the only difference from what I remember of Picnic's, and kind of scanty, but the meal was otherwise exactly what I was looking for. Except for one thing.

Meatloaf Dinner RZ.jpg
Photo by Ily Goyanes
Even though the chef/owner, Mrs. C, a Cuban as it turns out, has intentionally tried to keep the menu as USA. as possible, there seem to be some slight variations. For example, the prerequisite brown gravy that smothers most meatloaf dinners is replaced with a tomato-based sauce that seems to have a bit of criollo. This is not to say that it tastes Latino in any way, but it is a definite departure from the gloppy, meaty, heavy goodness that is brown gravy. I admit that I have a penchant towards brown gravy (I even prefer it to giblet or turkey gravy on my turkey and stuffing), and that may be the reason that I wasn't completely happy with the red, meaty mess that blanketed my plate. But, Mrs. C is very accommodating and prepared some brown gravy for me at my request. Everything came into place and the world was all right again.

As I sat surrounded by the gleaming chrome counter and vinyl upholstery, I ruminated about the changes that Miami had undergone since the initial Cuban invasion, and as I thought about how sophisticated and worldly we had become, an "old" saying came to me, "Not all change is good."

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Location Info

S&S Diner at Allen's

4000 Red Road, Miami, FL

Category: Restaurant


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6 comments
Migdalia Quintana
Migdalia Quintana

No puedo esperar ir a Miami para comer esa deliciiosa comida , Carinos, Migdalia Quintana

Crafty3068
Crafty3068

What a terrible time we had this morning first the waitress needs to be trained not just in her service. But how to add and subtract. The food was ok but Denny,s would have been better. We will never go there again!

EatingTime
EatingTime

I prefer the 'real' version of S&S Diner over on 2nd Avenue between Midtown and Downtown.

Rosa St Claire
Rosa St Claire

You are right on about "sometimes no change is good". I absolutely love the food here, although my palate prefers the tomato base gravy on the meatloaf. I can't thank you enough for recommending S & S Diner. I used to be a regular for years, when it was called Picnic's, and the fear of the menu being changed kept me away. It was such a great surprise to taste the famous meatloaf again, and the great coffee, and mashed homemade mashed potatoes, made with real potatoes, instead of the fake flakes being offered in most places. I plan to keep on returning agai & again with family & friends.

Ily G
Ily G

@ Eating Time: I haven't been to the S&S on 2 Avenue, so I wasn't comparing the two. In fact, if anything, I was probably subconsciously comparing it to Picnic's Diner which used to be in the same spot. S&S @ Allen's proved on its own merits that it is a very good, 'real' diner. And to top it off, Mrs. C uses the authentic, fifty-year-old chili recipe that was used at Picnic's (which is awesome btw--I don't think I have had better chili anywhere in Miami). One of the reasons that I like S&S is because it is in South Miami--us sagueseros don't have many diners--they are all in North Miami. On your suggestion I will try the other S&S when I am in the hood. Thanks!

Blomingdns
Blomingdns

Actually, the fifty year old chili recipe began, not at Picnic's, with John Allen (my grandfather, the original owner of Allen's). The Allen's chili was always known as the "best chili in town". I suggest you try the pancakes as S&S south - some of (maybe the best) the best and biggest around..... Way to go Nancy and Carlos!

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