Is it too big a claim that this is the only decent restaurant ever to be opened in a convention center in the history of mankind?
Unconventional Diner is certainly far better than the sad stands you usually encounter in these venues, with their Sisyphean hot dogs rolling through eternity in heated boxes, their unevenly stale bagels, and their sad piles of bruised Granny Smith apples.
But it's not just it's location that makes this diner unconventional. The decor, with its tropical greens and art à la Keith Haring (see above), is bouncier and more contemporary than you'll find in most eateries of this type.
Most importantly, the food is a world away from standard diner fare. Though it falls squarely into the comfort food category, French chef-owner David Deshaies is of the "eat your vegetables" school of cookery. So fresh, expertly prepared green, red, and orange foods take up at least half of all the plates. That might mean a brunch dish consisting of a mound of meltingly tender roasted Brussels sprouts topped with fried eggs and pickled red cabbage (see above). Or a Lebanese fried rice dish that's again topped with an egg, but this time slathered with jalapeño-studded yogurt and filled with crunchy surprises like pistachios, toasted rice bits, and roasted turnips.
Deshaies also likes to play the fusion game, so there's a fab meatloaf with a sriracha glaze, moist country fried chicken sandwiches topped with a proprietary "sexy sauce," miso salmon with okra and broccolini, and funky kale nachos.
One note: Though Unconventional Diner is in Washington's Convention Center, it's only accessible from outside, so you'll need to duck out to 9th street to find its door.