BEST DINER - 2002
The uninitiated may be hard-pressed to locate this little gem, tucked away as it is in the rear of the Renaissance Square building; a tiny sign is all that announces its presence to passersby on Nicollet Mall. This is probably just as well: any better publicity and Hamlin's would become unmanageably crowded. As it is, whether you sit in one of the comfy black leather booths or at the old-school counter, the place retains a relaxed charm. We defy you to find anything bad on the menu here--or to drink more than two-thirds of your cup of coffee before it's refilled to the brim. Hamlin's does all the diner staples extraordinarily well, from grilled cheese to club sandwiches and tuna melts, soups to salads. The turkey melt, smothered in Muenster cheese and bacon, served on golden slices of St. John's bread, is diner grub elevated to an art form. If the fish-and-chips special is available, take the waitress's word when she tells you it's very good. Whatever you order, make sure it comes with fries (they can be added for a buck and a quarter with sandwiches)--they're served hot, crisp, and just salty and greasy enough to make you momentarily think about fat grams...before polishing off every last one.