As soon as you get close, it’s obvious that the Paper Moon is not your typical diner. It looks like a large ranch house with a large sun porch (What? On 29th St.? In Remington?). It’s painted in eye-catching bright colors landscaped with surprisingly lush displays of flowers and shrubs. All of this serves as the backdrop for a large glossy red mannequin (looking like an undetermined Indian deity), an amazingly large collection of former white ceramic bath tubs, sinks and toilets (now put to use as planters or repositories for pieces of mannequins!), multiple big golden crescent moons, and a sizable pink elephant floating over the entrance door. Wow! It certainly doesn’t look like a cousin to other Baltimore classic 50’s style chrome diners! (FYI – The Paper Moon used to be open 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week – that’s changed! Now, it opens at 7 am and the kitchen still serves food until just 2 am on the weekends.)
Where you walk in, you’ll notice a traditional diner sit-down counter but then you quickly become aware that every surface (including the ceiling fans?) seems encrusted with toys, stuff and what-nots! (To the right there’s a dining room that’s slightly less encrusted and to the left, the enclosed front porch that hits new heights of encrustation!) The interior continues with the array of bright colors and the tables have hand painted tops (each one different – of course!) It’s as if someone created an on-the-cheap, slightly psychedelic version of the dearly departed Haussner’s filled instead with finds from a flea markets and maybe a bankrupt toy store. (The mind boggles at the thought of keeping all of this embellishment clean! How do they do it???)
The menu’s are covered in old kid’s book covers and cover a lot of bases. Breakfast is served anytime – Omelets come with home fries and toast ($9-$10); Burgers come with fries ($9-$11), 2 dozen diverse sandwiches (but you’ll have to ante up $2.50 more if you want fries, sweet potato fries, garlic mashed potatoes or onion rings). There are 5 entrée salads ($11-$15) and 5 pasta dishes ($10-$15) and some entrees: Meatloaf ($12), Turkey Dinner($11), Tofu stir fry ($12) and crab cakes ($15). Soft drinks ($2.50 ) include refills. Fitting in with the décor, the menu is full of cute names and small surprises (“Lox around the clock”, “Salmon Chanted Onion”, “Weed Burger”).
After taking 10 minutes at least to read through the menu, John finally decided on a barbeque burger with fries ($9) and Marty ordered a cheese burger ($9). John opted for traditional fries while Marty wanted “Sweet Fries” (aka sweet potato fries – which surprisingly didn’t cost extra). John’s burger hit the mark – the burger was topped with pulled pork and cheddar cheese; the fries were hot and crispy. Marty’s burger made quite a dent in his whopper burger and liked it a lot. Marty is quite the aficionado of sweet potato fries and he obviously relished these “sweet fries” (though in classic Marty style, he doused them in ketchup before making “all gone”) We passed on desserts ($4-$5) and missed our opportunity to try the touted “Peanut Butter Blitz”.
The menu alerts you that they do a team service thing here (e.g., one person may greet you and take a drink order, another may take your main order, someone else may bring your food and yet someone else may bring your check (but you pay your bill on your way out!) This worked surprisingly well. Service was friendly and attentive. Water glasses got re-filled without asking and Marty’s request for more ketchup showed up quickly.
The combination of decent reasonably priced food in an off-the-wall environment clearly has it’s charms. Like Haussner’s was once upon a time, this is a destination restaurant that has to be experienced to be believed (and enjoyed!)
FACTS? Paper Moon Diner – Remington ; 227 W. 29th St; 410-889-4444; www.papermoondiner24.com; Open 6 days a week; Closed Tuesday; Sun-Thurs from 7 am – 12 pm; Fri-Sat 7 am – 2 am; No liquor! Vegetarian options; No reservations; On-street parking; DiningOUT review based on 2012/April Visit