Best Diner - 2010
The Pelican is to diner as tandoor is to microwave. There's a relationship there, but you have to engage some creativity to nail it. The place looks diner-like enough: beach-themed thrift-shop art on the walls, wooden stools lining the counter, Formica tables, laminated menu. There's the cheerful, white-haired, coffeepot-wielding waitress who can recite every breakfast special on the board too. And all goes well for a while: blueberry or coconut-banana pancakes; Italian omelet with sausage, onions, and peppers, served with grits or home fries; eggs Benedict du jour. But about halfway down the list, things start to turn strange: eggs nissa? Curried chicken and spinach omelet with nan and raita? It turns out that about a third of the Pelican's flip-flop-shod customers show up not to eat the fantastic blueberry pancakes once blurbed by celeb chef Daniel Boulud but for the Indian breakfasts — those divine and fragrant egg dishes laced with cardamom, turmeric, and chilies — all the more remarkable because, among the Pelican paintings, ketchup bottles, and plates of biscuits and gravy, they're so unexpected.