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 V.17 No.39 | September 25 - October 1, 2008 

Restaurant Review

Western View Diner & Steakhouse

Where everybody knows your name

The breakfast Vaquero comes with a tortilla for $7.50.
Tina Larkin
The breakfast Vaquero comes with a tortilla for $7.50.

... Except mine. As I sat alone in a beat-up vinyl booth, I couldn’t help but feel left out of the camaraderie shared between the staff and apparently loyal clientele. Nearly everyone who walked in the door was heartily greeted by name, or at least with some degree of familiarity. I just got strange looks as I sat typing on my phone, my to-die-for leather platform pumps dangling off the edge of the seat. Remember that "Sesame Street" segment, “One of these things is not like the others”? That was me and my lovely cashmere wrap.

Western View is perched on an end of Central I generally have more reasons to avoid than visit. Some may consider my assessment in bad form, but I have my reasons. Case in point: After my second visit to the diner, I drove a few blocks further to visit a little grocery store in search of hard-to-find Mexican ingredients. As I waited at a red light at the intersection of 98th Street and Central, I watched two carloads of females exit their vehicles. They proceeded to beat the hell out of each other with baseball bats. Breakfast and a show!

Homestyle cherry pie at $2.95 a slice
Tina Larkin
Homestyle cherry pie at $2.95 a slice

Of course, the vicious antics of a few ladies—and I use the term loosely—should in no way reflect on Western View’s food. But a restaurant’s location does figure in to where diners decide to eat.

So I didn’t really fit in at this Route 66 diner, and I think I like it that way. It’s a place where the waitresses are still waitresses and the cooks are still cooks. No servers or chefs—just hardworking folks who don’t need a modern title to feel good about what they do. And, for the most part, they do what they do well.

No servers or chefs—just hardworking folks who don’t need a modern title to feel good about what they do. And, for the most part, they do what they do well.

The service on my visits was smooth and unadorned. Classic, no-frills coffee never stopped pouring. Condiments found their way to my table without special requests. Orders were delivered hot and fast. I liked that my waitresses didn’t have a bag of tricks to nudge their tip percentages up, like complimenting my clothes or stooping to make eye contact. They were friendly without being patronizing, always more focused on doing their jobs than being my buddy. This is the telltale mark of service industry lifers.

The menu covers typical American diner grub and some international cuisine. There are eggs every-which-way and over-the-top burgers. There are also Mexican standards and Greek and Italian dishes. Western View's owners are Greek, which partly explains the wide range of foods served. Still, on an otherwise run-of-the-mill menu, shish kebab and veal Parmigiana come across as the odd men out.

Frank Castillo, Joe Green and Simon Beltran (left to right) chat at the Western View Diner & Steakhouse counter. Castillo and Green have been faithful customers of the diner for more than 25 years.
Tina Larkin
Frank Castillo, Joe Green and Simon Beltran (left to right) chat at the Western View Diner & Steakhouse counter. Castillo and Green have been faithful customers of the diner for more than 25 years.

A reader recommendation prompted me to order the "Hungryman" burger. The juicy, meaty 10-ounce patty dwarfed its bun. Eating it was a logistical challenge. I piled on the "deluxe" accompanying sides of green chile, lettuce, tomato and onion, and, setting aside my usually punctilious methods, devoured it. Perhaps I wanted to show the other diners that I could hang—that despite appearances, I was truly one of them. Whatever my impetus, I wound up with a stuffed feeling that made walking a burden. It was a damn good burger, though—and the fries were equally scrumptious.

Breakfast was a little less palatable. An old favorite, corned beef hash, is tucked under Western View's “Breakfast Suggestions” menu heading. Served with two eggs, home fries and either toast or biscuits, it’s a classic diner choice. My over-easy eggs were on the far side of over-medium and the hash tasted more like the can it was dumped from than the finely chopped and seasoned dish I had hoped for. But the biscuits were fluffy. Topped with jam, they soothed my disappointment just enough to keep my complaints to myself.

You really can’t be too hard on the place, flagrantly un-PC collection of Mammy figurines and all. Listening to men in work books fill the space with lively banter that bounces from table to worn-in table makes you realize: This is exactly the breed of restaurant whose existence is slowly being replaced by sterilized, nostalgic imitations. Western View is a neighborhood joint. And judging by the steady stream of well-fed customers I dined alongside, it’s serving its neighborhood well.

View Western View Steakhouse & Diner in Alibi Chowtown calendar

The Alibi recommends:

• Hungryman burger

• Biscuits

• Endless coffee and the din of everyone else’s conversations

Western View Diner & Steakhouse, 6411 Central NW, 836-2200. Hours: Mon-Sat 6 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun 6 a.m.-3 p.m. Price range: $2 (breakfast sandwich) to $20.95 ("cattleman’s choice" 20-ounce T-bone steak). Ambience: New Mexican Americana. Beer, credit cards.

 

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