First Look: At The Corner

I’ve had my eye on the storefront space where the Hop Diner used to sit, on the corner of Markham and Scott Streets for some time now. Now dubbed At The Corner, the new southern styled diner is a family affair worth noting.

About a year ago the King family noticed the “the energy at the corner, and the vibes it gave off,” says Kamiya Merrick, apprentice chef and PR head to the diner. Helen King and her daughter Leila King propositioned The Hop Diner, and soon found themselves renovating the space with plans to open in 2015. They then secured Jordan Williams, sous chef for the Pine Bluff Country Club for nearly ten years, as the head chef, making it one step closer to serving time.

I recently had the chance to visit the work in progress, and came away with the feeling that I had stumbled upon a hip eatery with the atmosphere of a family-friendly Beale Street diner.

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“This is an investment for the children,” Helen said, laughing. Every inch in the restaurant is accounted for as a group effort, from Helen’s art on the walls to Leila’s attention to the downtown community and service. “It’s more of a modern diner, really, a funky finer diner,” Leila said. The goal is to wow with the menu and the service. “I really want to be known for our service and our community feel, my mom and I are both service oriented,” she added.

Think shiny red booths, a bar that seats up to ten, and a menu to match the nostalgia. The diner will be open for breakfast and lunch and will serve the gamut: breakfast sandwiches, bacon and eggs, pancakes, and oatmeal for breakfast; and burgers, hotdogs, salads, sandwiches and soups for lunch.

As the space is right across from Block 2 Lofts, there are plans for a warming station for the “downtown dwellers” with soups, salads, and sandwiches to-go. There will also be daily specials which could be anything from meat loaf to fried chicken, and is sure to pull on southern heartstrings.

I’m particularly stoked for a southern favorite that is hard to find when dining out: the fried bologna sandwich. “That was my grandfather’s favorite sandwich,” explained Leila. “Baloney and hotdogs are kind of bottom of the barrel meat, so we wanted to change the perception of that,” Merrick added. To this end, the diner has partnered with Butcher and Public to make those dishes possible.

Williams and Merrick are sure to make a great team, as I was drawn to the creativity of modern diner takes which I found in the open-faced Trolley Dog and Peanut Butter Bacon Jam Burger. The Trolley Dog was a balanced level of sweet and sour with lemon curd balancing out pickled red onions and banana peppers atop a Butcher & Public dog. As for the burger, three words: homemade bacon jam. They also have poutine on the menu, a traditional Canadian dish involving fries, gravy, and cheese curds. Merrick is from Canada and has been perfecting the light-brown gravy for weeks now.

Look for a tentative soft opening in late February or March, as the group finishes final touches.

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First Look: At The Corner