When you think of a diner, what comes to mind? To me, it’s a large, plastic-covered menu with an array of eats, from breakfast to lunch and dinner. And maybe some beer and wine since a diner is a restaurant for adults! Unfortunately in the Triangle, we have a relative dearth of diners in the area. To my mind, I think of Metro Diner and Shiny Diner in Raleigh, Elmo’s in Durham along with Breadman’s in Chapel Hill. Probably the hundreds of Waffle Houses in the area might qualify as a diner but…
So I was super curious when I heard about the Rainbow Luncheonette. My research shows that a luncheonette is similar to a diner but even more simple, focused on the mid-day meal and counter service. Long in the planning, Rainbow Luncheonette just opened up in November and I’ve had a chance to visit a couple of times.
The Rainbow Luncheonette, Interior and Decor
Head on over to West Street, right off Capital Blvd, and you’ll find a neighborhood in transformation. With the Cardinal Bar, Layered Croissanterie, the Pink Boot, and now, the Rainbow Luncheonette, you’ve got some hip and funky food and drink options here! The Rainbow Luncheonette sits in a narrow storefront within a white-washed brick building. The space is brand new and done up bright and with colors. The tiled floor looks like a pack of assorted Lifesavers, there are padded booths to one side and about 12 black and wood stools (23 seats total) in front of the formica counter (pegs underneath for handbags) to the right. It all feels a bit retro but refreshed for the 21st century. The short-order kitchen is open to the dining area so you get to see your food prepped and cooked up, luncheonette-style!
The Rainbow Luncheonette, Menu and Food
The menu and food options are pretty basic at the Rainbow Luncheonette: eggs, pancakes, breakfast meats, sandwiches, Southern sides along with some daily specials! Most everything off the breakfast and lunch menu is priced under $15 for affordability. One special note is that Rainbow Luncheonette also offers up beer and liquor which is a nice beverage option for adults.
So how’s the food? For lunch, you’ve got a lot of great options at the Rainbow Luncheonette. I highly recommend their rib sandwich which is like a high-quality McRib, amped up! Take some boneless rib meat slathered with tangy barbeque sauce and pickles, sandwiched between two hefty pieces of Texas toast and you’ve got yourself a meal! A side of creamy, Southern mac n cheese just makes it pure comfort food. And the new chicken-fried steak is fantastic! Crunchy, crisp coating around a steak and served up with classic collards and mashies. The kicker is the white gravy poured atop the entire meal, wonderful stuff.
On the breakfast side of things, I highly recommend the steak and eggs which is a grilled strip steak with two eggs, a choice of grits or hash browns, and Texas Toast. The steak is usually offered for dinner but this smaller cut for breakfast is wonderful and prepared to order, the eggs dotted with pepper, and the hash browns are grilled up with bits of onion and pepper, perfect. The corned beef hash is a comforting plate: hashbrowns, eggs (your choice) along with a strip of tender, grilled corned beef!
The Rainbow Luncheonette, Conclusion
Service at Rainbow Luncheonette is excellent as you would expect for the small space and dining area. Usually, they’ve got some 90’s pop or rock streaming out of the overhead speakers. The staff is definitely friendly and engaged and the feel inside is of a neighborhood hangout joint where people know each other. And I love how you can watch while your food is being prepared while sitting at the counter, the cooks definitely take care of your food with some culinary effort and skill, they certainly pay attention to the details here!
While you don’t get the full diner experience (see Metro Diner), Rainbow Luncheonette hits all the right notes. Overall I do like what they are doing here, offering a more casual, quirky, and affordable dining option in the sometimes expensive Glenwood South area. Basic and delicious always works for me and I’m sure you’ll like Rainbow Luncheonette if you live in the hood or want some breakfast!