Lighthouse Diner serves wonderful French fries — which just made things more baffling for me.

Why, for instance, bother with those fresh-cut, skin-on fries, if they're sitting next to a hamburger patty that looks like a round of cheap jerky, on a bun that's obviously stale? I appreciated the friendly service at Lighthouse Diner, but the lapses in quality were maddening, taking comfort food and making it frustrating, instead.

It's comfort food we set out for on the recent evening that we had dinner at Lighthouse. I'd recently been sick, and my mind was full of things like a big, puffy Denver omelet, or a hot turkey sandwich with lots of toasty bread, real turkey and mashed potatoes.

I ended up with the hot turkey sandwich at Lighthouse Diner. Hot turkey sandwiches are a particular favorite of mine, one of those dishes that is simple and delicious if done right. This one was about half-right: the mashed potatoes seemed mashed from real potatoes and were hot and steamy, and the sandwich did, indeed, use real turkey, not slices from one of those nasty pressed loaves.

Unfortunately, it was obviously the tail-end, none-too fresh remnants of a bird that had long since been stripped. At least that's the impression I formed viewing the tiny bits of meat, most of them dark, scattered sparsely over the sandwich. I don't mind dark turkey meat in some contexts; for example, it's delicious in soup and tetrazzini. But does anyone expect anything but white meat on a hot turkey sandwich? I don't think so. And the gluey gravy didn't help at all.

I would have believed that the problem was mine alone, except that my daughter ordered the turkey dinner and had a similar experience, except that her tiny bits of mostly dark turkey were hidden under a thick layer of bland country gravy. The bright spot of her meal was the split-pea soup, which despite being too salty had a nice flavor of peas and plenty of ham and carrots to liven it up.

My husband's dinner was a little better by virtue of being bland rather than yucky. His chicken-fried steak didn't taste bad, but it had no seasoning or flair to make it interesting, and the aforementioned country gravy just made things more blase. His meal also came with mashed potatoes and a bowl of mixed vegetables, and he started with a decent salad that had plenty of mixed greens and chopped veggies.

Our two younger daughters had the macaroni and cheese, a Kraft-style portion with those tasty fries on the side. We did have to salt them, but they were fresh, hot and delicious.

My son had the child's burger, for which this restaurant should be ashamed. The first burger he got was cardboard-thin and so stiff it crumbled when touched, and its bun was hard, too. The second, after we complained, was the same kind of super-thin patty, just cooked a little less so that it was leathery instead of crunchy. I don't know where they're getting these travesties, but serving them to the public, even to a child, is ridiculous.

We had dessert, which I assume was pre-made: slices of super-fudgy chocolate layer cake and of apple pie with a nice cinnamon-laced filling and marginal crust.

Burgers and sandwiches $5.49-$10.99, soup and salad $1.99-$7.99, dinners $10.99-$14.99, breakfast $3.49-$12.99, sides $1-$3.99, kids' meals $3.99.

Rating: * 1/2

Where: 87 W. 7200 South, Midvale

Hours: Daily, 6 a.m.-9 p.m.

Payment: Major credit cards accepted; no checks

Phone: 565-0567

Wheelchair access: Easy

Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret News. E-mail: [email protected]