Doc & Mz. V's Diner
Southwestern heart and Southern soul food
What are some of the differences between the South and the Southwest? Well, for starters, we here in the Southwest have tortillas, while Southerners have biscuits. They say "git on," and we say "you 'member?" But every once in a great while, South and Southwest both merge for the forces of good and produce a restaurant like Doc & Mz. V's Diner.
This South Valley eatery is a crossbreed of tasty New Mexican choices and good old-fashioned Southern favorites. Can such a gastronomic amalgamation work? After all, we have green chile and the Green party—they have red states and Crimson Tide games.
Stepping into Doc & Mz. V's for the first time is an experience all to itself. The walls are covered with black-and-white prints of all things rock 'n' roll, and a bevy of ornaments from the days when Ricky Nelson crooned and teenage girls swooned. I sat down amidst the black-and-white checkered tabletops and albums hanging from the ceilings (for all of you born after 1980, those are round, black disks that preceded CDs as a mechanism for storing recorded music).
I had excellent service from Mz. V herself, and she greeted me with an enormous glass of sweet tea (so rare here) with those five little words that every girl likes to hear—all-you-can-eat buffet. For $5.99 I was entitled to all the Southern-fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, string beans, salad and grilled Texas toast that I could cram my drum with. And the best part? The food was awesome.
The chicken was juicy with crispy, reasonably seasoned skin. The green beans were cooked with shreds of smoky ham, and the mashed potatoes were liberally peppered and came with either brown chicken or milk gravy—and they were real potatoes, which seems to be a privilege, not a right, these days.
Co-owner Doc wandered through right about then, and commented, "Instant mashed potatoes? I wouldn't eat 'em, so I won't serve 'em."
The salad bar was not huge, but included a few cold salads like tuna pasta and pea salad, and some fruit, cottage cheese and, of course, the requisite lettuce and fixin's.
The whole staff here was surprisingly animated for a Tuesday afternoon, and Doc, perhaps secretly a comedian—was asked about his soul food sisters at La Siringitu Vegetarian Café. He gave them props, and said that their two restaurants are not competitive.
"This part of town is not about tofu," he chuckled.
The menu is decidedly sans tofu, but the union of South and Southwest is apparent with dishes like carne adovada and smothered burritos on the same list as deep-fried catfish and hamburger steak.
The specials here are abundant and come often. Fridays herald the arrival of all-you-can-eat seafood ($12.99), Saturday's special is barbeque ribs or chicken with corn on the cob, black-eyed peas, collard greens and candied yams ($12.99), and Sunday brunch here includes custom-made omelets, grits, waffles, peel-and-eat shrimp, prime rib and all the trimmings for $14.99.
The menu also offers breakfast all day, a substantial children's menu and homestyle desserts like the peach or blackberry cobbler, served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
With all of the differences between South and Southwest, which one has the best of it all? We have "La Bamba," they have "Dueling Banjos." They've got antebellum estates, we've got adobes. They also have crooked politicians, stuff cooked with lard and laws supporting concealed firearms. We have ... well ... maybe we aren't that different after all.