I’ve discovered that every vacation, no matter how good or bad, will contain one restaurant dud. Well, actually, Joni’s 340 Diner would probably classify more as a bomb. We should have taken the warning sign that there was not a soul in the place that perhaps we should have moved on to greener pastures. Instead, we saw the rather lovely decor and decided it couldn’t be that bad. A few minutes later, another customer wandered in. Judging by his conversation with the one and only waitress, he was a regular. Like maybe a four or five times a week regular. I can only deduce that this man has no taste-buds in his mouth or is putting himself through some kind of excoriating torture slightly less painful than self-flagellation. The waitress was very pleasant and attentive. Offering refills several times and even asking if we wanted takeout cups for our drinks. Unfortunately, that was as good as it got.
Look, I’m not in the business of trashing restaurants. You will notice on my list of Pennsylvania reviews that almost all are positive. Even places I didn’t like I still tried to spin in a good way. I understand the weight negative online comments have in affecting a business. Please keep that in mind as you read this. There was no way I could spin this one and still be able to sleep at night.
Our appetizer was the loaded French Fries. So, the easiest thing you could ever have to make. Fries, cheese, bacon, ranch dressing. Done. Instead, it came out with our meals, and was cold, soggy, and greasy. I think I know why. Before any food came, I happened to turn around and see the “chef” walk out of the kitchen and have a seat at a booth behind us where he proceeded to take out his phone and text or play Pokemon Go. You know you’re in for a real doozy when the chef is AWOL from the kitchen and no food has been served yet. About ten minutes later, our meals and appetizer came out. Everything cold or lukewarm. Can I assume that the chef finished cooking, plated everything, and left the stuff on the counter, and then our waitress (who also may have been playing Pokemon Go) forgot about their existence, had an “Oh, shit!” moment, and then rushed to bring us the food all at once? Seems logical to me. My sandwich of turkey, cheddar, bacon, tomato, and thousand island dressing was a mess.
The turkey was hand-carved, obviously cold, and then thrown on the grill for a few minutes to heat it up. After all, with a customer base consisting of maybe three people a night, there would be no reason to keep food hot and waiting. Like the fries (just look at the pictures), there was hardly any cheese to be found, and did the menu say dressing? Almost none at all. It was supposed to come on sourdough bread and I asked for a hoagie instead. My mistake. It was like eating a loaf of bread that had been kissed by a turkey club. It was also supposed to come with fries, but the waitress asked if I wanted to substitute it for something else because of the loaded fries appetizer. That was actually smart thinking. The mashed potatoes were real, not instant, and the gravy was quite good. But that was a conundrum because the gravy was the best thing I ate all night. The mashed, as you might guess, was cold. My friend had a grilled cheese sandwich. He said it was ordinary. Not bad, just cheese and bread somehow heated up. As he described, “My 15-year-old brother could make it better”. His French Fries substitution was a cucumber salad. For this, they literally dumped a pile of sliced cucumbers into a vat of yogurt. Voila! Cucumber salad! No seasoning. No flavor. Just a bowl of soupy disgustingness.
What I take from this night is the following: 1) I now know why only three customers were eating at this establishment (including the two of us), 2) The cook has no idea what he is doing, and it scares and bothers me that with so many unemployed chefs out there, this guy has a job and they don’t, 3) Not even Robert Irvine or Gordon Ramsay could save this place. If you’re not capable of making a sandwich and fries then you don’t deserve to be in business. Just close up shop and walk away from this disgrace, 4) I’m not going to listen to excuses that this was an “off night”. This was garbage, plain and simple. Slop that should have been poured into a pig’s trough. I am just so happy that I didn’t get a steak or some kind of real food. Then I may actually be angry while writing this. 5) I expect this place to be out of business by my next visit to Lancaster. It will be a shame if it’s not.
I also noticed that they pride themselves on offering delivery. There is a large message on the outside sign, menus, and social media about how they deliver diner classics right to your door. I wonder if Lancaster County Prison is in their delivery range? Then again, there are activist groups who would want to stop this dreck from even going there. I’m not sure I would saddle their death row inmates with something as daring and frightening as their meatloaf or liver and onions. I don’t know who Joni is, but I want to congratulate her for achieving the lowest score in my blog’s history so far. 2 out of 5 stars, and that is only because the waitress was pleasant when not hanging out in the kitchen or talking to the only other customer you have on this planet. And also because the food was, in fact, edible. Your dog may run away from it, but I didn’t contract food poisoning yet. So it could have been worse, right?
This review was originally posted here. Joni’s 340 Diner is located at 2481 Old Philadelphia Pike in Smoketown, Pennsylvania.