To get a good idea of what you'll find at Stella's Diner, imagine a typical diner—grill-heavy menu, glass dessert cases, vinyl booths—and then bump things up a notch in terms of quality. The result is a colorful, uber-friendly diner that's authentic without being greasy and trendy without overdosing on the kitsch. And odds are, if the owner, Gus, is present when you're being seated, he'll ask your name and introduce himself—no small feat of friendliness on this crowded Lakeview strip.
Slide into a booth and order up some comfort food (the mac and cheese is rich and creamy, while the hot dogs and hamburgers are sure to satisfy a craving) or try a jazzier offering, such as the Cajun crab cakes or homemade veggie burgers. Sandwiches, like the turkey reuben, offer no-nonsense goodness that doesn't touch the grill. No matter your main meal, though, save room for a knock-your-socks off milkshake; Oreo is a popular order, with crumbles of cookie swirled into the thick sweetness that's almost unsippable with a straw. Likewise, the hot fudge sundaes are decadent and drip down sides of the old-school sundae glasses in which they're served; the remaining homemade desserts, like caramel apple cobbler and chocolate diva cake are proudly displayed in a glass case.
Though Stella's has earned some fierce neighborhood loyalty for its unpretentious lunch and dinners, some would argue that breakfast is when Stella's really shines. Decidedly short wait times start things off right, while everything from eggs benedict to turkey sausage and toast ensures nothing goes wrong. The French toast—stuffed with citrus-flavored cream cheese and topped with mango-citrus syrup and orange zest—will make you want to lick your plate clean. And in such a low-key spot, it feels like no one would mind if you did just that.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Kate Rockwood