When I think of a diner, I imagine a sunny spot with pastries, coffee, and breakfast. I think of comfort food coming out of a steamed-up kitchen. And most of all, I think of people gathering to catch up over a hearty meal. My absolute favorite cafe in the city, located on Clement Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues, has all these things. But it might not be exactly what you’re expecting.
D&A Cafe is a Cantonese diner that serves everything from fried quail and fish balls to spaghetti and SPAM. The drinks alone have their own giant page, listing tapioca drinks, milk shakes, shaved ice, fresh juice, and more. D&A does seafood, noodles, sandwiches — and entrails. If you’re craving some homey Chinese food, D&A will definitely be able to whip it up for you. From 9 until 11 a.m., it serves breakfast items like eggs or perfectly crispy hash browns. And then lunch begins.
Remember when you were a child and your mom would ask you what you wanted for dinner and you’d answer, “Mashed potatoes and French toast”? Or “pizza and doughnuts”? That’s what’s so great about eating at D&A. It’s like being a kid again. As a grown man I can sit down for lunch and eat a plate of crunchy, delicious hash browns, following them up with shrimp dumpling soup. I can have a BLT with fried rice on the side. Dammit, I can do whatever I want! With three happy hours in one day, lunch specials range between $4 and $7. The menu is massive and the prices are just right.
If you’re a fan of tasty organ meats, as I am, don’t skip the fried pork intestines. The tiny, gamey slivers of entrail are lightly fried, with a nice, bouncy chew. I’m also fond of the drunken chicken, a dish served cold and soaked in Chinese white wine, as it’s perfect for a hot summer day. It would take a lifetime to try everything on D&A’s menu, and some of those dishes are so unusual that maybe it’s best they’re left to the experts. But I love this place. I love the neighborhood, the atmosphere, and the tasty Chinese food — although if I’m being completely honest, I’d come just for the hash browns.
D&A Cafe, 407 Clement St., 415-668-7883, no website.