The Two Gay Geeks went to the Welcome Diner to celebrate the birthday of a close friend and were pleasantly surprised.
Welcome Diner is located in the Historic Garfield neighborhood of Downtown Phoenix situated among what used to be old dilapidated bungalows and long abandoned businesses as few as ten years ago. Over the last number of years the area has seen a tremendous amount of renovation and revitalization as have many other areas in the central corridor. You can find Welcome Diner just East of 7th Street on a very narrow (as all of the neighborhood streets are) stretch of Pierce at 929. Fortunately, there are a few parking spaces behind the building, otherwise, parking is on the street.
Let me tell you about our experience:
We were met at the door by the General Manager, Wayne Coats, who informed us that there was a short wait for a table. There are only five four-top booths and two booths that can seat more than four inside and about a dozen stools at the counter. They do have tables outside but, I wasn’t prepared to eat outside in the heat. I am sure it is fairly pleasant after the sun goes down. Welcome Diner opens at 5:00 and we arrived at 5:45 and they were already full as this is a very popular place. We didn’t have to wait long before Wayne escorted us to our table inside and explained the Happy Hour menu and took our drink order. They have a wonderful Ginger Beer that is made on premises. Very Ginger-y and tart. Yum!
Wayne is definitely a working manager, he returned with our drinks and explained some of the menu items and made sure to let us know they use a lot of local sourced items in their food preparation. I saw him do everything but wipe tables and work in the kitchen but the kitchen and other tables were behind me so it is very possible he did that too. 😉
I was very interested in the cornbread on the menu as an appetizer (they call Munchies) but was informed they were out at the moment but a suggestion was made for the Smoked Tomatoes and Okra (I will try another time as it speaks to my Oklahoma roots). It was the description of the Mac N Cheese that intrigued all of us. This quote from the Facebook page was almost verbatim the description we got: “We start by infusing herbs into cream from Superstition Farm, then build the sauce w/ sharp cheddar, smoked gouda, & muenster cheeses, toss in pasta, top with bread crumbs + cheese shred and torch to finish.” Below is a photo I borrowed from the Facebook page because I forgot to take a pic…. BTW – It was delicious and disappeared quickly.
There were too many choices, I wanted to order one of everything. I guess we will have to go back.
There were two orders of the Welcome Burger. It is a 6 oz. patty that looks hand patted and cooked to order, both ordered Medium which was a hot pink center. The Hamburger Roll was a toasted Noble Bread roll and it was served with ketchup, mustard, onion, B&B (Bread and Butter) pickles, cheddar, and aioli. On the side were Fresh Hand Cut Fries (other options were Cole Slaw, Brussels Sprouts, Side Salad, or Grits) that were deep fried to perfection. One of our party makes a pretty mean burger and another loves burgers and is very opinionated about them. There were no complaints and even a compliment to the fries from both.
Another in the party, who grew up in the South, ordered the Pulled Pork and Grits which looked wonderful. This is their Smoked Pork Shoulder (I am assuming they smoke on premises as I smelled a nice smokey aroma in the parking lot), which is served over Ramona Grits, with Carolina BBQ sauce, pickled onion (I nearly snatched it), and a soft egg on top. Who could ask for anything more comforting than pulled pork, grits, and eggs. Oh my, the flavor combination makes me drool! There was nothing left on the plate and there was no dog under the table signaling that it was a triumph.
Finally, I ordered the Jambalaya which features Schreiner’s Andouille Sausage, chicken, holy trinity vegetables (Cajun take on the french mirepoix), and jasmine rice simmered with cajun spices and tomatoes. It is served with lightly toasted Noble Sourdough bread. There are as many ways to serve Jambalaya as there are people who cook it; from a bed of rice with the “stew” on top to the rice and stew mixed together. Welcome Diner did something very different, the rice and stew were mixed and a large scoop (I assume) was placed on the grill and browned slightly, giving a bit of a crust and reducing the moisture so it wasn’t runny and then served in a bowl. The first bite was pure heaven. It did need a little bit of a hot pepper sauce (because that is just me) which sent it over the moon. I have to say it is one of the best Jambalaya’s I have ever eaten.
As I said earlier there are way too many good looking things on the menu. Rant loading… I will stop here to say that a menu can be very inviting or a turn off. So, if you are in the restaurant business please pay attention to your menu. Describe things so that your guests want to eat the food. Instead of Salmon with Almonds and choice of side, try Fresh Sockeye Salmon with Fines Herbs baked to perfection, garnished with with California Almonds and served with Haricot Vert. End Rant…
Welcome Diner does a fabulous job of enticing you into wanting to order everything on the menu. It is a delight to read. And once again, there is the emphasis on locally sourced ingredients.
To say that Welcome Diner is just a Diner is a gross understatement. They have taken the Diner concept and food to a whole new level. The food is well thought out in preparation and presentation. And everything we had tasted great.
So, if you are in the mood for good diner food that has a distinctive upscale quality to it, then Welcome Diner is your new spot. You may have to wait but it is well worth the wait.
Thank You Welcome Diner we will definitely be back.