[Editor’s note: This article appeared in our April 2020 issue, but was held for publication online amid last year’s Covid-19 shutdowns.]
Whether it was for pancakes on the way to the Shore or lemon pie on a date night, Olga’s Diner was a 400-seat magnet on the Marlton traffic circle for nearly 50 years. Its oversized red script sign was a beacon. Olga’s closing in 2008, preceding the planned demise of the traffic circle itself, saddened many. The building stood empty until it was finally razed in 2017.
In October 2019, a new Olga’s, larger and spankingly modern, opened about a half-mile north of the original location. “We were fans of the old one, just like everyone else, and we didn’t want to see the name go to waste,” says Kostas Plexidas, 59, who frequented the original when Olga Stavros was alive and is part of the group that invested $3 million in the project. The new Olga’s has 260 seats, an illuminated dessert case and, out front, an LED version of the original logo.
With its big red booths, multipage menu and enormous portions, the new Olga’s offers familiar comforts. The kitchen, run by Mike Mihos, who was a chef at the original, offers a handful of vegan dishes, but no gluten-free breads or pastas. On our first visit, we scored with a seasoned waitress full of personality and enthusiastic suggestions. The waitress on our second visit was young, knew little about the food, and was MIA during much of our meal.
We tried the vegan soup, a sprightly broth brimming with peas, corn, carrots and spinach. Lentil soup was watery, in need of more lentils and seasoning.
The nachos grande appetizer was a dry mound of fried flour-tortilla triangles topped with a smattering of shredded, melted cheddar, chopped lettuce, tomatoes and sliced jalapeños. It needed a lift, perhaps from sour cream or black beans, and more than the tiny cups of salsa and chopped avocado on the side. On the Italian front, the wine-infused, mushroom-laden sauce on the chicken Marsala was tasty enough, but the breasts themselves were overcooked.
[RELATED: Past Meets Present at the New Olga’s Diner]
Crispy brussels sprouts, well caramelized, came with roasted red peppers, bacon and a light ranch dressing. The meatball appetizer was also a winner: two large balls of well-seasoned beef stuffed with creamy fontina in a tangy tomato sauce, with a side of broccoli rabe. The three pan-fried crab cakes, though described as “mini” on the menu, were sizable and contained almost no filler. Like most of the appetizers, they could have easily served as entrées.
Greek salad did not disappoint. A large bowl of crisp greens, chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, olives and feta in a lemony Greek vinaigrette, it was garnished with four stuffed grape leaves. On the other hand, disco fries, undercooked and drowning in melted cheese, scallions and brown gravy, were a sodden mess.
Two old-school entrées, stuffed cabbage and chicken croquettes, brought back old-school pleasures. In the former, a chunky tomato sauce blanketed soft cabbage leaves filled with thyme-enhanced chopped beef and rice. The croquettes were stuffed with nicely seasoned dark meat.
But another classic, roast turkey, came up short. Although the waitress assured me that a whole turkey had been roasted and carved, the tasteless white-meat slices failed to convince me. It didn’t help that the accompanying mashed potatoes were mealy, the sage-infused stuffing soggy, and the gravy floury. The green beans were nicely steamed.
For dessert, tiramisu cake was moist yet light, with a nice hint of amaretto. Chocolate layer cake was intense under a robe of fudge frosting. But the main event was New York–style cheesecake based on Olga’s recipes. We tried two of the usually half-dozen varieties. One delivered a pleasing contrast between the dense, creamy interior and the chocolate-ganache coating. The other was topped with a layer of cannoli filling for a cultural confluence that clicked.Click here to leave a comment
- Cuisine Type:Diner
- Price Range:Expensive
- Price Details:Appetizers: $14–$22; entrées, $27–$39; desserts, $10
- Ambience:Bright, colorful, contemporary
- Service:Varies with the server
- Wine list:BYO