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O'Rourke's

728 Main St., Middletown, CT - (860) 346-6101
Posted By Michael Stern on 4/22/2015 8:01:00 AM
Brian O’Rourke’s diner just keeps getting better and better. It almost perished in 2006 when it was ravaged by a fire. There was no insurance, but regular customers loved it so much that a fund was created and enough money raised to bring it back to life. A lustrous Mountain View Diner that has been a Main Street fixture in Middletown, Connecticut, since 1946, it supplements familiar diner fare with the local oddity known as steamed cheeseburger, and, best of all, with unpredictable meals from relentlessly creative chef Brian O'Rourke. For example, the menu describes an item listed as "Brian's Breakfast" thusly: "No two breakfasts are ever the same, and you do not know what you are going to get. Neither do your servers, so do not even try asking!" A few possibilities on the petit déjeuner degustation: duck hash, a waffle topped with barbecued pork, poached eggs with smoked salmon, a Dubliner omelet (corned beef hash and Irish cheddar), banana bread French toast with clotted cream.

Brian O'Rourke, who grew up in the diner started by his uncle John O'Rourke, loves to talk about the food he makes. One spring he enthralled us with a clever story about how he traded meals with a local fisherman to get fresh shad and shad roe for his dinner menu. Another time, he explained in mouth-watering detail how he made an all greens soup because he came across a good supply of fresh collards and mustard greens and the caraway in his garden was ripe for picking; he combined these with sweet kale, sorrel, and ricotta cheese, sour cream, and yogurt to create a thick, invigorating brew as hearty as vegetables can be. "I've been doing a lot of drying lately," Brian told us one September, holding up an plastic carton filled with chili powder made from hundreds of dried, ground, golden cayenne peppers. "Here, smell," he said, opening the top. The aroma was dizzying – sharp, earthy, sunny. "This is a season's worth," he boasted. "All I need is a pinch for my soups or sauces." Then, even though we had just finished dessert, he brought out a little crock of chili so we could taste. It was zesty, tongue tingling but not scorchingly hot, with a deep savor from the red wine he had included. Wine in chili? It's not the true-Texas way, but O'Rourke's is nothing if not original.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
soup
chili
Omelet
Brown Bread Muffin
Swordfish Cakes
French Toast Trilogy
Banana Bread French Toast
steamed cheeseburger
Hell of a Hash
Bacon & Eggs
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

Brian told me what was in this vegan soup, but I forgot what he said. I do remember that it was delicious and rib-sticking.
"Brian told me what was in this vegan soup, but I forgot what he said. I do remember that it was delicious and rib-sticking."
Michael Stern





On the stove behind his grill, Brian keeps diced sweet potatoes and the makings of beef hash.
"On the stove behind his grill, Brian keeps diced sweet potatoes and the makings of beef hash."
Michael Stern


This is not your mother's French toast...unless Irish soda bread, brown bread, and clotted cream were staples in your kitchen!
"This is not your mother's French toast...unless Irish soda bread, brown bread, and clotted cream were staples in your kitchen!"
Chris & Amy Ayers


A steamed cheeseburger at O'Rourke's, but not the way Brian O'Rourke thinks it's best.  He says the only proper condiments are onion and mustard.
"A steamed cheeseburger at O'Rourke's, but not the way Brian O'Rourke thinks it's best. He says the only proper condiments are onion and mustard."
Michael Stern


O'Rourke's neon: beautiful!
"O'Rourke's neon: beautiful!"
Marc


Brian O'Rourke puts the finishing touch -- a dollop of jam -- onto a Dubliner omelet plate.
"Brian O'Rourke puts the finishing touch -- a dollop of jam -- onto a Dubliner omelet plate."
Michael Stern


One of the special touches at O'Rourke's is receiving a plate packed with the day's homemade breads upon taking your seat!
"One of the special touches at O'Rourke's is receiving a plate packed with the day's homemade breads upon taking your seat!"
Chris & Amy Ayers


We can't remember whether these eggs were called sunrise or sunset, but we do know that what made them stand out was the homemade bread upon which the eggs, hollandaise, and tomatoes sat.
"We can't remember whether these eggs were called sunrise or sunset, but we do know that what made them stand out was the homemade bread upon which the eggs, hollandaise, and tomatoes sat."
Chris & Amy Ayers


Having started lunch with this little sampler of seafood soup, I suddenly developed a tremendous hankering for a seafood main course. The waitress suggested I have the swordfish cakes set upon a bed of the soup. Excellent idea!
"Having started lunch with this little sampler of seafood soup, I suddenly developed a tremendous hankering for a seafood main course. The waitress suggested I have the swordfish cakes set upon a bed of the soup. Excellent idea!"
Michael Stern


This is just a
"This is just a "tasting plate" of O'Rouke's gumbo, which is subtle, aromatic, and impossible to stop eating."
Michael Stern


We snapped this picture of an omelet on the grill, ready to be plated. We're not exactly sure which of the countless choices it is. It is topped with smoked mozzarella and roasted yellow peppers.
"We snapped this picture of an omelet on the grill, ready to be plated. We're not exactly sure which of the countless choices it is. It is topped with smoked mozzarella and roasted yellow peppers."
Michael Stern


A traditional breakfast of bacon and eggs is accompanied by slices of toast made from one of O'Rourke's made-here breads.
"A traditional breakfast of bacon and eggs is accompanied by slices of toast made from one of O'Rourke's made-here breads."
Michael Stern


An amusement park for tastebuds: the chunky swordfish cakes are set atop thin slices of fried eggplant and topped with a zesty-sweet zucchini-poblano chili relish.
"An amusement park for tastebuds: the chunky swordfish cakes are set atop thin slices of fried eggplant and topped with a zesty-sweet zucchini-poblano chili relish."
Michael Stern


Just one of the many breakfast offerings at O'Rourke's.  Delightful!
"Just one of the many breakfast offerings at O'Rourke's. Delightful!"
Robin Olson


This is a brown bread muffin, one of the multitude of interesting breadstuffs always available at O'Rourke's
"This is a brown bread muffin, one of the multitude of interesting breadstuffs always available at O'Rourke's"
Michael Stern


Simple fare, but a tasty way to start the day.
"Simple fare, but a tasty way to start the day."
Robin Olson


O'Rourke's Mardi Gras special
"O'Rourke's Mardi Gras special"
Michael Stern


About 10am Sunday morning, there wasn't a seat available in any booth ... but some counter space was still available.
"About 10am Sunday morning, there wasn't a seat available in any booth ... but some counter space was still available."
Michael Stern


O'Rourke's is treasured by diner aficionados, who appreciate its unrestored 1940s beauty.
"O'Rourke's is treasured by diner aficionados, who appreciate its unrestored 1940s beauty."
Michael Stern


Rebuilt and in business.  The steamed cheeseburger and eight-ounce glass bottle of Coca-Cola is $10.  Well worth it.
"Rebuilt and in business. The steamed cheeseburger and eight-ounce glass bottle of Coca-Cola is $10. Well worth it."
ray luce



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