I am not a patient man. I can wait maybe—maybe—30 minutes at a restaurant, but only if it has a bar I can sit at and bitterly nurse a whiskey while eyeballing every slow eating diner in the place. That is why I haven't posted on Southwest Diner before. Twice I tried to go on the weekend for brunch, and twice I was greeted with a wait of over an hour. Sure, they have a bus outside the restaurant you can wait in, but the last thing I want to do on a Saturday morning is listen to people babble. I just want to shovel food into my face.
Now that I've got some newfound freedom, I can go to lunch whenever and where ever I want! I called up my friend, chef Russ Bodner, and we headed over to Southwest Diner for an early weekday lunch.
There were only two tables open when we got there, the rest filled with people enjoying what looked like large, bountiful plates of Southwestern fare. I don't know the history of the diner, and I'm too lazy to look it up, but I'm going to guess that this once was a typical American diner, which has since been renovated to look like a 1960's diner in Sante Fe. I can be a little indecisive when it comes to ordering, especially when the whole menu sounds so friggin' good. I'm a Southwestern food slut; one of my favorite places to eat in is Phoenix. All those fire roasted meats and veggies, heavy use of chiles and spice, little bits of Mexican influence—what's not to love? As I waffled back and forth (that's a pun, because this is a diner. Get it?), Russ just went ahead and got himself a cup of the pork and hominy red-chile posole.
Selfishly, he offered me none of his posole, but judging by the speed he scarfed it down and by how it smelled, I'd say it was good.
His main course was worthy of a lumberjack: a smattering of crispy homefries, two perfectly cooked eggs (later doused in hot sauce), and a country fried steak topped with a homemade sausage gravy. Once again, no tasting for me—why do I even eat with this guy?—but he assured me that it was really tasty and he'd happily order it again. Even if he won't share, his opinion on food can be trusted.
My original plan was to try the enchilada, and even after all my waffling, that's what I went with: the stacked enchiladas platter, Christmas-style. If Christmas-style New Mexican food sounds familiar to you, you've probably seen Guy Fieri talking about how righteous it is, brotha, at some family-owned diner there. Half the enchilada is topped with the smoky, slightly bitter red chile sauce, while the other half has the cheesier, tangier, mellower green chile.
There's a clear winner here for me: green chile. It's got a little heat to it, but mostly, it just takes you straight to flavortown...er, it's got a great flavor. I went with barbacoa for my meat of the day, which was a solid choice, but next time I'm going with the adovada, a red-chile braised pork. It's a house specialty and quintessentially New Mexican. Both the beans and rice had nice flavor, too. I was quite pleased with my choice and will proudly admit to sharing none of it with Russ.
By the way, we got a buttermilk cornmeal pancake as a side. Don't judge us. It's research.
I totally see why people are so into these—they're like enormous arepas. I saw a tiny woman dominate a stack of these like it was nobody's business.
I have to hand it to you, Southwest Diner: you are truly a wonderful breakfast and lunch spot. Part of me wishes we'd never met, because I fear that my interest in you will soon become an obsession. Jon's fiery scrambled eggs are next.