The Lost City Diner in Station North has finally revealed itself after being unwrapped from the brown paper that clad the building for, oh, so many years.
And whether you are in the mood for a juicy cheeseburger with fries slathered in gravy, a roasted pepper stuffed with quinoa and walnuts, or an authentic egg cream, you’re in for a treat.
The place feels part movie set and part archaeological excavation, so meticulous is its décor. It’s like punching a button on a time machine and spinning through a vortex (like the one painted by local artist Alix Tobey Southwick behind the clock).
The Lost City’s interior of Art Deco veneers, mid-century lighting, and chrome finishes is painstakingly period—down to a black rotary-dial phone with its distinctive trill and an old-fashioned cash register with buttons for dollars and cents. The ceiling is tin, the stools at the counter swivel, and the shakes are blended by a pale green Mixmaster.
But like the enlarged pulp-science-fiction covers above the soda fountain and our mellow waitress’s bright red lipstick—the servers wear the most interesting vintage military garb—The Lost City is a cherry-picked pastiche, aesthetically and gastronomically appealing to the 21st-century perspective. It’s an ideal option for patrons bringing their own bottle of Pinot to be uncorked at no charge and the loft-dwelling, twentysomething who locks his upscale bike at the curb to saunter in for a vegan ginger-lemon soda served in a classic fountain mug.
The Jupiter on the menu—a thick Angus burger with cheddar cheese and bacon—is balanced by Earth, a mash-up of portobello mushrooms and beets with vegan horseradish dressing, available on a vegan Kaiser roll. There’s also a thick turkey burger with a wedge of Brie and fried apple rings.
The tamale pie comes piping hot in a small cast-iron fry pan with pulled pork and spicy salsa beneath a cornbread crust. The barbecued pork, with an unexpected pop of chilies, is also available, like the burgers, on a challah roll. The Lost City’s mac and cheese is an oversized portion individually baked and crusted over with breadcrumbs. You can also graze on coddies with water crackers and garlic jalapeño mustard dipping sauce.
Beware the black cow, a beverage that seems to have meandered to the drinks menu from its proper place with desserts. The root-beer ice-cream float with a shot of chocolate is almost as sweet as her sister, the brown cow made with Coke or Diet Coke. And the desserts—mostly sundaes—are likewise generously proportioned with a balance of the past and present. There’s a classic banana split and a tin roof with chocolate sauce and peanuts. The green Martian is pistachio ice cream with coffee syrup and marshmallow, and our favorite, “The Thing,” features crushed graham crackers, marshmallow, and hot fudge over vanilla ice cream. Just about anything can be made vegan for an extra buck.
The Lost City has found a perfect niche in a city known for its diners. It’s practically a museum of retro embellishments, while the menu is planted firmly in two centuries.