A return visit to have dinner at the Papermoon challenged and changed our recollections. The front facade on 29th Street is full of overgrown yew hedges effectively blocking most of the decor that used to get the attention of folks driving past. By contrast, there are incredible, eye catching outside decoration around the corner on the side of Papermoon facing Cresmont Street that could have you believing that the Papermoon is an outpost of the AVAM (American Visionary Art Museum!. (Heck, even if you don’t eat at Papermoon, you should make a point of just stopping by to catch the view of the Cresmont side of the diner!) Equally nice – particularly in the morning and afternoon when the parking meters on 29th Street demand your coinage – there’s now a good sized Papermoon parking lot on the other side of Cresmont right across from the restaurant.
The fantasy land decor continues inside (I can’t figure out they manage to keep all of the stuff that covers the interior clean!)
The Paper Moon menu is huge and diverse offering “Breakfast” at any hour (heck, if you want dinner at 7 am, they’ll try to satisfy you I bet!). We found ourselves taking 15 minutes just to take in everything on the menu before we could even start to reach a decision! The menu provides some context for understanding this:
“The Papermoon Diner offers an eccentric, eclectic, technicolor dining experience that might be best described as “comfort food meets Baltimore with a twist.” We’re vegetarian and raging-carnivore friendly, with a jam-packed menu featuring everything from meat loaf to crab quesadillas, from vegan nachos to peanut butter and jelly French toast, from homemade chili to shrimp and grits—and so much more.”
With many breakfast items alone ranging in cost from $8 – $15, the one thing word that probably doesn’t fit the Paper Moon well is “inexpensive”. The same pricing trend continues with 20+ sandwiches where a comparatively simple Tofu Wrap costs $12 and comes only with a slice of pickle (Adding fries will cost you an additional $2.50 bringing the cost of that wrap up to $14.50!). A half dozen entree salads range from $11 to $15. A half dozen different types of burgers are a comparative bargain which include fries at $10-$12 but adding cheese or bacon will up the price by a couple of bucks. The prices of so-called “TV Dinners” raised our eyebrows wth “Mom’s Meatloaf” or a “Turkey Dinner” priced at $16 and a “Salmon Dinner” at $18 (Gee, but they do include a small side salad!).
Marty ordered the “Fancy Pants Burger” ($10) which came topped with fried onions and goat cheese along with sweet potato fries. While it looked good when it arrived, it soon became clear that his burger was i no way as impressive as the decor. While Marty like his fries, anyone familiar with Marty’s appetite would find it very telling that he left more than a third of his burger uneaten. He later confided that he felt that it was one of worst tasting burgers he’s had in awhile. Marty’s reaction to his burger was probably mellowed by not having to pay $3 extra for his sweet potato fries on top of the price of his burger.
The menu described John’s “Fusion Salad” ($13.50) as including “Fresh baby spinach, arugula, tomato, onion,shredded jack cheese, topped with grilled chicken tossed with hoisin sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The reality though was the grilled chicken was over cooked and dry despite some very mild hoisin sauce which on the chicken (the greens were lacking any dressing at all and we had to flag down a server to get some.
Bob’s Portabello Mushroom and Goat Cheese salad ($12) looked amazingly like John’s salad except with pieces of grilled mushroom and goat cheese on top instead of dried up chicken on John’s. (Bob at least got a side container of salad dressing with his salad and – while not thrilled – was more copacetic about his entree)
Bill was seemingly philosophical about his $10.50 omelet; it looked like a decent size omelet for the money; it wasn’t under or over cooked. He didn’t have to cook dinner and he got to chat with friends. His small side salad arrived with no dressing but he borrowed a bit from Bob when he couldn’t seem to get ahold of a server.
Bernie was hardly philosophical about his Grilled Pesto Chicken Breast ($10) which clearly for him left something to be desired and didn’t meet his menu description expectations: “grilled chicken breast tossed in pesto ,fresh mozzarella cheese, tomato, and arugula on a grilled sub roll”. He complained that that there was barely a 1/2 teaspoon of pesto on his entire sandwich; the amount of melted mozzarella bordered on being what some might term “stingy” and he missed the handful of potato chips that he probably would have at least been included at many another restaurant with a $10 sandwich.
Fred’s Cheese Steak ($9 plus $2.50 extra for fries) was described as “Thin kobe steak, lettuce, tomato, marinated onions, and melted gruyere cheese. Served on a grilled sub roll”. His feeling was that it was the price was “fairly reasonable” and that it was “generously portioned, for this joint, anyways…“
Paper Moon’s approach to service was at times challenging – Unlike other restaurants, no one server takes care of the people at a table. As the menu explains: “The server who greets and seats you may or may not be the server who takes your drink order. The server who takes your drink order may or may not be the server who takes your food order. The server who takes… you get the drift?” That sharing of server duties may be very politically correct but when you need something and you can’t either find anyone to ask or the only servers available seem totally occupied with other tables, it gets confusing from a customer standpoint.
Overall, none of the six of us were overly impressed with what we ordered and all of us seem to find ourselves wishing that our meals had been just half as exciting and memorable as Paper Moon’s decor (it’s hard to describe the impact of being confronted by a wall filled with gawd-knows how many “Pez” candy dispensers when you’re leaving). None of us would recommend or want to get again what we had ordered. Our friend Fred observed “The kitchen shows no attention to detail” (Which on a not horribly busy Monday evening, it wasn’t easy to make excuses for). We left the Paper Moon not particularly impressed; Marty’s observation on the way out seem to sum up the collective assessment: “I guess we won’t be coming back here to eat any time soon…“
FACTS? PaperMoon Diner – Remington ; 227 W. 29th St; 410-889-4444; www.papermoondiner24.com; Open 7 days a week; Sun-Thurs from 7 am – 12 pm; Fri-Sat 7 am – 2 am; Breakfast available (as well as anything else on the menu!) at any hour. No liquor! ; Vegetarian options; No reservations; adjacent parking lot plus (free after 6 pm) on-street parking; 18% mandatory gratuity for tables of 5 or more; DiningOUT review based on 2014/May dinner visit