Thursday, January 20, 2011

We Must Have Driven Past This Place . . .

a hundred times on our way up and down Central Avenue. And on at least fifty of those occasions, I remarked on the number of cars in the parking lot.

But, for some reason, we never thought to stop at the Western View Steakhouse and Coffee Shop until we learned that it was on the New Mexico Culinary Treasures Trail.

Founded in 1944 and now owned by Stavros and Demetra Anagnostakos, “The Route 66 classic Western View has been known in previous years as the Ski View and Desert View…. It’s been the Western View, though, for more than 40 years…. It used to be open 24/7 and many older folks remember coming after dancing at the Hitching Post, which was next door, until it was replaced by an apartment building. The kitchen is still the original structure, and the other exterior walls have been added on through the years…. The Anagnostakos’s pride themselves on the family environment (all four of their kids have worked here) and have customers that have had 4 generations of family coming in here” (from

After a quick on-line search, I found a positive review by food blogger Gil Garduno and these comments all from “…I love to drive through the valley and pull up to the welcoming neon sign of the Western View Diner. The waitresses are sweet, the food is homey and comforting,” ”Baby boomers like me feel at home parked in their well-worn vinyl booths served by friendly staff that are anxious to please…,” “The Western View is exactly what you should expect from a diner. Simple, tasty food at very reasonable prices…,” and “The decor was leaning more toward Country Road than Route 66, but it least it has some character.”

So on a day when all of our plans went awry, at 2:00 p.m. we found ourselves in need of food and quick. Why not just drive down Central and try the Western View?

The décor is ultimate diner from the faux brown leather tufted booths to the flower petal shaped light fixtures to the L-shaped lunch counter. On one wall were photos of such old-time movie stars as Edward G. Robinson, Lucille Ball, the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges, and Clark Gable with some woman. (Who notices the woman standing next to Clark Gable?)

On a shelf sat a number of seemingly unrelated objects with a Native American Chief as its focus. Oh, the Christmas decorations were still in place.

As with almost everywhere you dine in Albuquerque, the menu had an extensive section of (New) Mexican favorites. But we were looking for traditional diner food. Both of us started with a cup of the day’s soup—the Green Chile Chicken Potato. Our server warned us that this was spicy, and so it was. It was also very good with large chunks of hand cut potatoes, pieces of what I (judging by their color) took to be chicken thigh meat, and lots of green chile pieces in a chicken-based stock. I would guess that this had been long simmered since the flavor of the green chiles permeated the normally bland potatoes.

Again, neither of us wanted any of the (New) Mexican entrees. Instead, Chuck chose the chicken fried steak platter, and I ordered the meatloaf platter. Both plates came with a large serving of REAL mashed potatoes with just enough lumps. And both plates came with a dish of cooked mixed vegetables that reminded me of the kind of “clean out the refrigerator” dish that our Thrifty German Mothers would have produced. This was a mix of corn, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage and a white vegetable that I took to be parsnips. Unfortunately, the flavor of the cabbage and cauliflower overpowered everything else.

Chuck’s chicken fried steak was of the breaded and flat-top-fried variety and not the battered and deep fat fried. Still, the coating was nice and crunchy and the meat was free of gristle. The white gravy with bits of sausage desperately needed the addition of black pepper.

While my meatloaf was better than that served at 1st Street Café (On Santa Fe) in Grants, NM, it was still no match for the 5 & Diner (Scottsdale) or mine. It contained all of the black pepper than Chuck’s gravy lacked, was moist, and didn’t appear to be half filler. Still, I was slightly unsatisfied. But the brown gravy that covered the potatoes and meatloaf was full of beefy flavor—even if it likely was made with a commercial gravy base.

Service was friendly. Our waitress was so friendly with a customer sitting at the counter that Chuck had trouble getting her attention to refill his glass of water.

On our way out, the cashier—obviously not recognizing us as one of the regulars—asked where we were from. When we responded “north of Philadelphia,” she told us that she had been born in Nicetown (a neighborhood along the Delaware River for our non-Philadelphia readers).

Now I must admit that most on-line reviewers specifically mentioned the Western View’s breakfasts (served all day), and we opted for lunch. Still, I am not sure the café lived up to its reviews and only award it 3.5 Addies.

No comments: