The Route 66 Malt Shop (1720 Central SW, 242-7866) is expecting to open for dinner this week. The tiny shop only has seating for 16, but still does a brisk lunch business because they deliver, via pedi-cab, all over Downtown and Old Town. (Yes, the Malt Shop owners also operate Route 66 Pedi-cabs.) For a while now they've wanted to open for dinner, but when they finally decided to do it, they ran into a snag. The big neon sign they ordered was too heavy to be safely supported by the building's façade. Without the sign, however, it would be nearly impossible for hungry diners to see the tiny Malt Shop. So they had to erect a pole on which to rest the sign, and wait for the sign to be lit before beginning dinner hours. So as you drive along the stretch of Central between Rio Grande and 14th Street, look for a big neon jukebox. If it's lit, stop in for a blue cheese green chile burger and a mug of their house-brewed root beer.
Move over Ron, it's Marta's turn. Marta Chavez didn't plan to launch her restaurant in the winter. She had planned to open Marta's Camino Real (416 Yale SE, 255-5519) as a carry-out only place, where people would feel free to sit and enjoy their food on the big patio that encircles the itty-bitty restaurant. But then she had to wait to have two duplexes removed from the property; you may have seen them there on the corner of Yale and Coal, where they sat on blocks for months this summer. By the time they were gone it was winter and the prospect of eating take-out on the patio seemed less appealing. So Marta adjusted her plans and chose another of the buildings on the property, one that was originally supposed to be an office, and turned it into a dining room. Of course, the two are not attached so you still order at the window, but then take a seat in the dining room building. Why not just use the building that Ron's Camino Real used? According to Marta, it's in pretty bad shape and needs to be completely remodeled. She'd like to eventually remodel Ron's and move in there, but until then, stop by anytime Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. They serve breakfast all day and Marta's making avocado tamales special for the holidays.
A small version of the Owl Café has taken over the short-lived Zyng noodle joint in the Shops at I-25! This owl serves pretty much just burgers, fries, onion ring loaf and milkshakes. Satisfying fare, for sure. Interestingly, the clientele (on the day I visited at least) is about 90 percent middle-aged men whose spare tires indicate their fondness burgers and onion ring loaf. But hey, what can ya do? I love burgers and I've got enough junk in the trunk to prove it. For more on the Owl, see our interview with one of the owners in this week's "Chewing the Fat."