The Triangle is a single building – a dazzling one, triangular in shape, 1960s in spirit – and it is two different restaurants, each with its own entryway. At the back against the hypotenuse is a lunch-only cafeteria where, for under $10, customers pile their trays with fried chicken, vegetables, and slices of made-here layer cake. Up front at the vertex in a room with picture-window walls and do-wop décor, dinner is served starting at 5:30pm.
Steaks star at dinner: filets, sirloins, and a broad beauty named John’s ribeye (named for owner and chef John McDowell). They are grilled on the flattop and so develop a savory skin with a bit of crunch at the edges. The sirloin can’t be beat. It is thick and easy to slice and runs savory juice as soon as it is breached with a knife. The plate-wide ribeye, although thinner, is lushly marbled and even juicier. The filet mignon, at eight ounces, is all meat, not quite so flavorful but ridiculously tender. On the side come either French fries, sweet potato fries (along with a shaker of cinnamon sugar), a foil-wrapped baked potato, or a trip to the salad bar.
The dinner menu also lists fried shrimp (more about the fried than the shrimp), pork chops fried or broiled, and an array of sandwiches including thick-sliced fried bologna with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise on toast. Next time I get this deliciously unctuous B(ologna)LT, I’ll ask for it on a bun. Toasted white bread isn’t sturdy enough to hold the substantial slab of meat and all its garnishes.
For dessert, there’s cake: Key lime cake (bright green), red velvet cake (bright red), hummingbird cake, coconut cake, and strawberry shortcake. Although the strawberry shortcake is topped with pseudo-whip and the syrupy topping shows little evidence of ever having been a berry, I found myself returning for more and more forkfuls, like it was some kind of addictive Little Debbie snack cake. On the other hand, red velvet cake is a no-excuses triumph, the cake itself cocoa-rich and not too sweet, so well abetted by an abundance of cream cheese frosting. Hummingbird cake with its double-tap salvo of pineapple and banana, plus nuts, will sate the most demanding sweet tooth. The cakes are moist and good on their own, but my waitress reminded me that they also can be had a la mode.
It is fun to eat in the dinner part of the Triangle, where one is serenaded by the sizzling grill and the bell that rings to let waitresses know that orders are ready to serve. Décor is 45rpm records, Coke ads, and other mid 20th century pop-culture iconography; and the view out the big, slanted windows is of the parking lot – an appropriate vista for a restaurant that dates back to the heyday of car culture.
Eating lunch in back, where there is no do-wop decoration and there are no picture windows, has charms all its own – of the edible variety. Service is cafeteria-style, not a buffet, meaning staff dishes out the food, which customers receive and put on a tray. (In other words, no other diners will be playing pattyfingers with your corn bread muffin.) It’s a meat-and-three affair, or meat-and-two or meat-and-one for meager appetites, where the day’s two or three entrees might be fried chicken, salmon patties, and meatloaf and side dishes are the likes of broccoli-rice-cheese casserole, braised cabbage, mashed potatoes, peas, and beans. The same impressive layer cakes are available here, as are bread pudding and Watergate salad. Although you do tote your own tray to a table, a staff of eager waitresses is always ready to help and to refill glasses of tea or lemonade.
Notes: Lunch is served Monday through Friday, 11am – 2:30pm. Dinner is served Monday through Saturday starting at 5:30pm. While a steak dinner can cost $20 or more, lunch is under $10.