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Winter Garden Restaurant -- Nothing finer than an old country diner

The Down Low: Winter Garden Restaurant is a humble diner where the servers wear jeans, all the guests know each other and showing up in PJs is totally acceptable.

The Digs: This place is a causal eating environment, just one step above a high school cafeteria. Luckily, the restaurant opted for comfy booths instead of those backache-causing benches. It's pretty crowded, filled with friends, couples and families. There's no distinct theme, but a sunny, happy vibe is definitely palpable.

The Delivery: Every staff member with whom my guest and I came in contact was warm, sweet and sincere. The food came out promptly, and even when we added to our order mid-meal, they we extremely accommodating and polite. Just make sure you bring cash because they do not accept credit – information that I learned a little too late. We were a few dollars short, and although they insisted that it was completely fine, we ran across the street to an ATM anyway.

The Dish: Winter Garden Restaurant features breakfast, lunch and dinner items on its menu. They close at 2 p.m. (1 p.m. on Sundays), so I don't know who would be ordering dinner this early but I guess ya never know. The selections were all simple, including eggs, omelets, sandwiches and various side items.

I was torn between pancakes and a sandwich, and I ultimately went with the ham and egg sandwich on toast ($3.25). It was a simple combination of two eggs, a couple slices of warm toast and a slice of American cheese. It was tasty, but nothing I couldn't have made myself. It also came with a side of crispy hash browns. My guest ordered the extremely salty country ham steak with two eggs and a biscuit.

Since both dishes were pretty small (and cheap), we decided to order a short stack of chocolate chip pancakes ($3.25) and a chef's salad ($4.75). The pancakes were soft and moist, but they didn't have many chocolate chips and they weren't evenly dispersed. The salad was fresh and included shredded cheese, ham, turkey, tomato and a hardboiled egg.

The Damage: This place should have been a "Cheap Eats" segment, considering how much food you can get for so little money. Between the two of us, my guest and I consumed a sandwich, hash browns, eggs, a ham steak, a biscuit, pancakes, a salad and two glasses of orange juice for just under $20. Granted the portions aren't huge, but that's still a whole lot of food.

The Deduction: Winter Garden Restaurant may not have the classiest atmosphere or the highest quality cuisine, but they have low prices, friendly service and the most down-to-earth spirit of any diner I've ever come across.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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