Sometimes you can scan a menu and fall in love at first sight. And so it was that South Bank's newish South Side Diner had me at 'oysters, tabasco and tequila'. Yes, four fresh Pacific oysters with tabasco sauce and a shot of tequila. Could there be a more perfect way to kick off an evening on the town?
But it was not my night to make out with the molluscs. 'We don't have any at the moment,' our waitress said apologetically. 'We're actually finding it really hard to source them'.
So it was just as well the menu offered plenty more salads and starters to choose from. Shrimp popcorn with chilli mayo and fresh lime, soft shell taco, buffalo wings with celery sticks and blue cheese sauce. Being stood up by shellfish clearly was not going to spoil my night.
Tucked in a breezeway between South Bank's Grey Street and Little Stanley Street, the South Side Diner opened in the full bloom of summer, offering a breezy range of retro meals. These include its favourite foot long smoked bourbon hot dog, classic Cuban sandwich (with roast pork, shaved ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard), sliders featuring your choice of pulled pork or red fish and crab and San Fran burger.
It's a great place to rest your wheels awhile. South Side Diner image.
But as Brisbane slides slowly into the cooler months, other comfort food choices are now coming to the fore - think butterflied jumbo shrimp with dirty rice and roast sweet corn, Creole grilled chicken, sticky BBQ beef ribs glazed with maple and pink pepper and macaroni and cheese done four different ways. Who'd have thought mac 'n cheese could be transformed into a must-have menu item? (Hot tip: On Mondays, the South Side Diner offers a two-for-one mac 'n cheese deal.)
There's a distinct 'stars and stripes' influence on the South Side Diner, from the chrome bar stools and oversized comfy booths through to the pop art and pie corner (with a choice of pumpkin, apple, cherry and chocolate peanut butter). In fact, the South Side Diner is so all-American, I half expected to see Richie and The Fonz slurping milkshakes at one of the corner tables.
There are some delightful choices on the drinks menu too, ranging from root beer and black cherry soda through to vintage cocktails - including the 57 Chevy, sherbet margarita and a pitcher of honey bourbon lemonade to share. I chose the Detroit daiquiri (white rum, mango and lychee syrup, lychee liqueur, sugar syrup and lime) which was as sweet and light as fresh-picked fruit.
The staff here are friendly and attentive - perhaps a little too much. I mean, we're enjoying the pork sliders just as much now as we were when you asked us five minutes ago. But this, of course, is a minor point.
I haven't done breakfast at the South Side Diner yet, but it too promises to pack a punch - think pancakes with streaky bacon and Canadian maple syrup, toasted bagel with hot smoked trout and crispy fried ham hock hash. Certainly worth setting one's old-fashioned alarm clock for.
The breakfast menu oozes temptation. South Side Diner image.