Wednesday, 17 July 2024

Foodie Freak: Biggs 155 Diner

Biggs 155 Diner

155 Park St.

Lakeport, CA. 95453

Phone: 707-262-0155

Fax: 707-262-0150

Phone and Fax orders are welcome

Open every day, call for lunch/dinner times

Question: How do you kill a restaurant reviewer without leaving pesky evidence behind? Answer: Cause his brain to implode.

You can do this in several ways. First, have a restaurant name that doesn't seem to match either the food or the facility. Second, have a decor that is elegant yet doesn't sound like it when described. Third, don't warn your patrons about the portions.

A good restaurant reviewer will be able to make the reader feel like they are sharing the experience and then be tempted to go and have their own personal experience.

I don't know if I have the eloquence to portray my experience because of the aforementioned conditions. My brain is throbbing in the attempt to write this.

I encountered all of these circumstances, not just one, when I went to Biggs 155 Diner. Let's go back to the beginning, before this clandestine attempt on my life.

I took a seafood class at Chic Le Chef in Hidden Valley Lake recently, not because I wanted to learn about seafood but because I wanted to learn about the chef teaching the class, Chef Jeff Andre. He is the owner and leads the kitchen at Biggs 155 Diner.

He has over 20 years experience in the cooking profession, from cooking in the Coast Guard to landlubber restaurants. He's also a true chef, being classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America. He is very focused on regional seafood which shows in his dishes.

Since I met Chef Jeff Andre at the seafood class, I knew I would have to slink into his restaurant quickly so as not tip him off that I was there. I entered and made a beeline to a corner booth so I wouldn't be seen. I then got a chance to look around the place.

The decor: The interior looks like a barn, but in a nice way. Imagine if you had Martha Stewart decorate your barn. The wood paneled walls are a nice olive green and one wall is corrugated tin or steel. Barn lights line the walls above the unrefined bench seating, and there are also plenty of chairs.

My mind is twisting and turning trying to adequately describe an "upscale, comfortable, elegant barn." The large windows on the front of the dining room allow just about everyone a beautiful view of Library Park and the lake.

The seating indoors will accommodate about 25 people, there is more seating upstairs on the deck for another 20 or so, and half a dozen more outside on the main sidewalk.

Lunch time is crunch time at Biggs 155 Diner, and the place was packed full of government employees, attorneys and other neck-tied, business-suited people. A local radio station is playing in the background at an appropriate volume level, where I can hear it and enjoy it while the couple next to me are having a comfortable conversation.

Diner food. I say the words and even you have just formed an impression in your head about what that is going to consist of. At Biggs 155 Diner it's not what you just thought of at all.

While the menu is dotted with some recognizable "diner fare" like burgers, hot dogs, fries and buffalo wings, it also includes a large variety of sophisticated food.

There are items like "Salmon on an Asian Vacation," "Marinated Veggie Stack Sandwich" and "Grilled NY Strip Steak." So now I'm confused about why it is called a diner and why it's not called “fine dining.” My brain is going to burst because of this conundrum.

The food. I was quite hungry so I ordered the crispy calamari and shrimp salad and the RBBLT – roast beef, bacon, lettuce and tomato. I figured that would be enough food to sate me. When the salad arrived I let out an audible "Uff Da!" at the sight of it (“Uff Da” is a Norwegian exclamation that is best translated as a verbal exclamation point).

The salad was a meal in itself – mixed greens, green onions, purple onions, a couple types of cabbage, with an Asian inspired soy-based dressing all topped with a generous amount of squid and shrimp.

My waitress, Alana, responded to my exclamation with, "Yeah, but at least you ordered some of the best things on the menu."

If you are squeamish about squid I will warn you that there are clusters of arms and tentacles included in the salad, not just "rings," but I think they are the best tasting part of a squid. (Quick nonsequitir: Squid have eight arms and two tentacles while octopus have eight arms and no tentacles.)

The seafood was flawless! I don't usually order shrimp because so often cooks seem to have a penchant for overcooking shrimp, especially fried shrimp. You end up with shrimp-flavored rubber balls. If you want to experience perfectly cooked shrimp then try Biggs' shrimp. It was juicy and tender, yes, actually juicy and tender shrimp with a crispy coating.

The RBBLT is a good-sized sandwich. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to even touch it after the mountainous salad so as it arrived I said, "I'll need that to-go."

I would have preferred the dish to be taken back to the kitchen and boxed up but Alana just brought a box to the table and left it for me to package, but that's just a minor point. The sandwich has a pleasant horseradish sting to it and just the right combination of beef and bacon.

Passing through Lakeport again a few days later, I swing by Biggs 155 Diner and get a shrimp po'boy to go. The shrimp po'boy is also better than I expected. Again the shrimp is perfectly cooked, and the soft yet rustic bread is the perfect texture and flavor for the sandwich. The lettuce is a high quality red tipped leaf lettuce, not cheap iceberg, and the tomato is ripe and flavorful. The French fries that accompany the sandwich have a crispy exterior but a creamy interior.

On a third visit I ordered the "blue plate special" consisting of a creamy potato/bacon soup followed by corned beef and cabbage. Once again I couldn't find anything wrong with anything. Alana was again charming.

The soup is balanced with just the right combination of potato and bacon, neither overpowers the other and you can taste both of them. The corned beef was firm but tender enough to be cut with a table knife. The cabbage was in a light broth with red potatoes and carrots that were fully cooked but al dente, just the way they should be.

The staff. Almost every time I've been to Biggs 155 Diner it has been busy, so busy to the point where the waitresses don't have time to chat. They have always been rushed but still very professional. They are always friendly even through the most crowded dining room.

I always like to add as much information about my meals as I can, even the mistakes that I find, so I don't look like I'm completely shilling the restaurant. Unfortunately (or rather, fortunately) in all of my visits I could find no real faults besides the aneurysm-inducing dichotomy of describing everything.

Prices are higher than what you would expect from "diner food," but are a bargain given the quality and quantity of food you receive. Biggs 155 has several reviews, and all of them rate it above average.

So despite the oxymoron's I've had to develop for this restaurant of "elegant barn" and "flawless diner food," Chef Jeff Andre is redefining what the word "diner" means even if it is going to kill me.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community. Follow him on Twitter, .

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