Now here's a diner with some upscale touches. Uncle Joe's in Hamburg features counter service, booths, a jukebox and thick mugs of coffee all right, but this is a 21st century version.
The restaurant also provides extensive dining room space (the place is large); Nicoise Salad; boneless, skinless chicken breast; and wine. (Your choice: chablis, Burgundy, white zin, chardonnay or Cabernet sauvignon.) Nicoise Salad, did we say?
Nothing's the same as it used to be. Not even nostalgia.
You will, of course, find lots of choice here. A big assortment of breakfast items including eggs, pancakes and waffles. Be sure to ask for butter because they serve margarine. Many salads and sandwiches such as fried bologna, grilled cheese and hot roast beef. Burgers and melts, and fish fries on Fridays and Saturdays, too. (Even something called a "Broiled Fish Fry." Whatever it is, it sells for just under $8.)
Obviously something for everyone, and that's probably why the place is jammed. The crowd runs from about 8 months to 80 years, and for those over 62 there's a 10 percent senior citizen discount.
We didn't have any trouble ordering, though. To the Companion, the word diner is synonymous with meatloaf, so that choice was predestined. The Meatloaf Dinner runs $7.65. He got a generous portion of densely packed meat, thickened dark brown gravy, home-style mashed potatoes complete with lumps, and frozen corn. Also a nice salad - perfect happiness.
Not subtle food exactly, but plenty nourishing. And, we hasten to add, there's a Meatloaf Sandwich on the menu, too. On bread with gravy for $6.15.
I went for an evening special. Sausage, Pieorgi and Sauerkraut. Again, a heaping portion and tasty, too. Too much to even finish.
When dessert time came, we struck a snag. To me, the term diner is synonymous with pie. And there were plenty of pies available, though none made in-house. Other desserts - fancily constructed chocolate extravaganzas displayed in the various refrigerated cases that dot the dining room - were also purchased and seemed much too elaborate for a diner.
So we settled for sundaes. Not too much of a hardship since they were made with Charlap's ice cream. The Hot Fudge Sundae (small, $2.95) was a wondrous thing; the Banana Split (big, $4.35) unbelievable.
UNCLE JOE'S DINER ** 1/2
WHERE: 4869 Southwestern Blvd. Hamburg (648-7154.) Meant to be an approximation of an old-time diner, but it's much more upscale. Sandwiches, burgers, meatloaf, roast turkey, soda-shop desserts. You name it, it's here. But so, also, are beer and wine. Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
FAVORITE DISH: Sausage, Pierogi and Sauerkraut Dinner. (A special)
NEEDS WORK: All food of acceptable quality.
PRICE RANGE: Dinners from $7.45 include vegetable potato, soup or salad. Burgers from $4.50.
SERVICE: Very good.
HOURS: Seven days, from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
HEALTHY CHOICES: Nicoise Salad, Boneless Chicken Breast Dinner.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes.
PARKING: In the lot.
KID APPEAL: Yes indeed.