A friend and I enjoyed a recent Saturday afternoon meal at the Paragon Diner, a new eatery in Johnson City. This restaurant, which opened for business about three weeks ago, offers classical diner fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We enjoyed every aspect of the visit, including friendly service, good-tasting food and a welcoming and well-considered dining atmosphere.
The new diner, which is owned by Peter Simeon, Gus Coubis and Harry Arsi, offers a diverse menu. In addition to classic American diner cuisine, there’s also a nod to some Greek and Mediterranean dishes, including Baked Spinach Pie, Souvlaki, Gyros, Eggplant Parmigiana and Greek Style Spaghetti.
Located in the building that formerly housed the Atlanta Bread Company, the Paragon Diner has transformed its surroundings with well-planned focus on a stately but inviting interior design. The walls are painted dark taupe-gray and sage green, and are contrasted with white brickwork and trim as well as some tin-stamped paneling. Some unframed canvas works of art are displayed on the walls. There’s a white-brick corner fireplace that lends the entire dining room some cozy comfort. Artistic light fixtures, ornamental faceted sunburst mirrors and floor-length windows draped with white linen curtains complete the tasteful decor. Seating is available at tables and various booths and half-booths.
Upon entering the restaurant, you can’t miss the large glass display that showcases the restaurant’s delectable assortment of cakes and pies.
Asked whether we preferred a table or booth, we chose the latter and were quickly seated. Our server, Tiffany, provided menus and took our drink orders.
As I’ve mentioned, the menu’s quite extensive, so it took some time to study the offerings, which included appetizers, breakfast favorites, salads, sandwiches, burgers, paninis, wraps and triple-deckers. The menu also listed Greek and Italian specialties, hot open-faced platters, poultry, steaks, chops, seafood and pasta.
We began the meal with a shared appetizer, which included Spinach Pie, Potato Skins, Chicken Tenders and Chicken Quesadilla, as well as Baked Feta Cheese and Olives. This last item, which also came with our server’s recommendation, sounded quite unique. This meal-starter features two slabs of baked feta cheese served on a bed of mixed greens and garnished with sliced black olives. The tangy cheese was warm and delicious and went well with the olives and greens, which had been drizzled with olive oil. Although delicious, it was a lot for two diners; I’d recommend this appetizer for a small party of four or five.
We then turned our full attention to choosing our main dishes. Some of the specialty sandwiches got my notice, including the Monte Cristo and Chicken Cordon Bleu, as did some of the Greek and Italian specialties. I also considered several of the pasta dishes, including St. Luis Pasta, which features Grilled Chicken, spinach and tomatoes in a spicy Cajun cream sauce served over fettuccine pasta, and the Pasta Portabella with Chicken. The Center Cut Marinated Jumbo Pork Chops and the Filet of Sole Florentine also vied for my attention.
I decided to try the Gyro Platter, which is accompanied by a small Greek salad, sauteed vegetables, pita bread and tzatziki sauce.
My friend ordered the Chicken Breast Florentine after also considering the Chicken Marsala and Mediterranean Shrimp.
I also added a cup of soup. The selections available during our visit were Beef and Noodle and Chicken and Rice. I chose the Beef and Noodle. My friend added a cup of the Chicken and Rice Soup to his meal.
The soup arrived ahead of the main meal. The Beef and Noodle was a hearty mix of bowtie pasta, celery, carrots, peas, corn, green beans, onion and beef in a tomato-based broth. The Chicken and Rice Soup featured the same vegetables as those in the Beef and Noodle Soup, but in a milder chicken broth.
The main dishes arrived quickly, and we were impressed with the ample portions. The lamb gyro was heaped on a bed of seasoned rice, accompanied by sauteed green beans. The Greek salad consisted of mixed greens, cucumbers, tomatoes and black olives with a zesty Greek dressing. The pita bread and tzatziki sauce provided the traditional accompaniment for the lamb gyros.
My friend enjoyed the Chicken Breast Florentine, which featured layers of feta cheese and mounds of sauteed spinach over a chicken breast.
Of course, after passing by that display case of desserts on our way into the restaurant, we could not resist trying some of these sweets. In addition to fruit-topped cheesecake, the available desserts included Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cake, Red Velvet Cake, Hummingbird Cake and Italian Cream Cake.
I chose a piece of Strawberry Shortcake, while my friend ordered the Black Forest Cake. My Strawberry Shortcake arrived as a tall wedge of cake that featured layers of strawberry mousse between the white cake. The outside of the cake was dusted with slivered almonds, topped with fresh strawberries and more sliced almonds and drizzled with a vanilla syrup. The cake was sweet, moist and delicious, a perfect end to the meal. My friend also liked the Black Forest Cake, which featured a rich, decadent melding of dark chocolate with sweet cherries.
We left very impressed. We also departed curious about all the tempting breakfast items left untried and vowed to return at a later date for breakfast or brunch. Paragon Diner should be a wonderful addition to the Johnson City dining scene. If you go, let them know they were recommended.
AT A GLANCE: Paragon Diner, 2010 Franklin Terrace Court, Johnson City. 631-0628. Open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Entrees range from $5.95-$17.95. Credit cards accepted. Carryout available.