From Columbus, one must travel over the river and through the strip malls, and still drive a bit more, before arriving. The journey is a taste of suburbia and urban sprawl but the destination is worth the effort.
The genesis of the Starliner Diner began when Jerry Burgos rocketed away from The Galaxy Cafe (a Columbus foodie favorite in the 1990s). The food is a fusion of Cuban/Tex-Mex/diner cooking styles. The Starliner features eclectic furnishing, mismatched tableware, a space-themed mural on the wall, and assorted flea marketesque everything else. Since this is South of the Border fare, the sounds of Spanish coming from the kitchen give me a good feeling. The serving staff is a mix of young and middle-aged folks, as are the patrons.
I have enjoyed anything ever served for breakfast here. The huevos rancheros and breakfast burritos are among the best in the Columbus metropolitan area. Several breakfast specials are offered which vary by the day. These specials are so good, I have been prevented from fully exploring other items on the regular breakfast menu. The crabcakes are my favorite breakfast special – two crabcakes, black beans, two poached eggs, plus red and green salsa. The sweet potato omelet is a close second. Expect plenty of fresh cilantro infused into many of the dishes.
An array of appetizers helps pass the time while you struggle and ponder about which main course to get. The quesadillas are a personal favorite and the sweet potato tamales are worth a taste, if just to support this unappreciated tuber.
The dinner selections include pizzas, pastas, and large plates of food in various combinations. The media noche is a traditional Cuban sandwich, with pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard on a grilled bun; a safe introduction to Cuban cuisine. For something more traditional the Cuban-style roast chicken seems to please the meek of palate, served with a side of perfectly cooked rice and black beans. The pizza and pasta category choices include: cheeseless veggie pizza , chicken BBQ pizza, and one of my favorite pasta dishes, Vegetable Caliente: mixed vegetables and smoked chipotle cream sauce tossed with spinach fettuccini. There is something for everyone (from conservative eater to culinary snob) on the menu. You will also find exceptional plantains as an appetizer or as a side with some dishes.
The Starliner is the type of place which people could drive by, or even take a quick peek at then decide to head down the road for a more familiar meal. However, once someone makes it through the door, they are hooked.