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Diner experience leaves something to be desired at Grub

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The nicely battered fish and chips at Grub on Valencia Street taste best with malt vinegar. (Michael Ares/Special to S.F. Examiner)

I love a good diner. Back in high school, we’d go to a greasy spoon (attached to a greasier bowling alley) at 2 a.m. because it was the only place close to home open past curfew, and pancakes past curfew are the best kind of pancakes. But that was then.

Grub sort of pretends to be a diner, and its menu indicates it doesn’t quite know what it is. It seems to include every possible combination of eggs and cheese and bread and meat, and tacks on pub fare, sandwiches, burritos, chicken and waffles, Asian salads, banana splits, soju Bloody Marys, corn dogs – more genres of food than any kitchen can reasonably handle. The place feels like a delivery truck from a food distribution company crashed into the kitchen, where someone turned on the TurboChef.

While I entered Grub with a vague idea of what I was getting into, I wanted to be wooed. Who am I to cast a stone at bacon-slathered eggs and good fried potatoes? I’d even fall for a banana split.

But things just didn’t add up.

I brought a friend who has made a life study of chicken and waffles, hoping he’d find something to be happy about. But he was disappointed. The chicken clearly was pre-breaded and ripped from a package, with the kind of smooth, pink overprocessed meat that gives you more pause than would a week-old McNugget in perfect condition.

The croissant French toast – in which airy, premade croissants were smashed, pan-fried, flat and slick with butter – was served with extra pats of butter. The croissants looked like they’d been run over by the wheels of a Mack truck. The result was a trio of dense, rich patties that would work well to oil a deck.

I ordered the Tater Tot Hill. How can you go wrong with a mound of tater tots? You can’t. The potatoes were the same fried animal that lived in the freezer of my childhood, smothered in cheddar cheese, scallions and sour cream. (I could make them exactly the same way at home, and it wouldn’t cost me $10.)

Even though Grub’s fish and chips had a nice crisp beer batter, the fish was pallid and needed a hefty dose of malt vinegar. Happily, I love drowning lots of things in malt vinegar.

We ordered a burger with bacon, avocado and cheese, which came to the table without bacon, avocado and cheese. By the time the fried, melted amendments were brought on a small plate, the unseasoned burger almost was cold.

Grub is a little baffling, not even beginning to fill the diner-shaped hole on Valencia Street. The restaurant apparently recently became an offshoot of Toast Eatery, and the menus at both places appear the same. The $15 chicken and waffles miss the mark entirely, and Modelo costs $6.50.

To put it bluntly, there’s no place on Valencia for pre-breaded meat. On the bright side, there are free lemonade refills at Grub. And the lemonade is quite tasty.

Grub

Location: 758 Valencia St., S.F.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily; 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 5 to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Contact: (415) 431-4782, www.grubsf.com
Recommended dishes: Tater Tot Hill ($9.50), lemonade ($4.50)
Credit cards: All major
Reservations: Not accepted

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