A while back, we read about Welcome Diner on http://www.iamjacksbrain.com and the corresponding post done by the friend he went with. It piqued our interest. We've been many times now and it's a regular on our rotation.
Welcome Diner is near downtown Phoenix, at Roosevelt and 9th Street. It's in an older neighborhood and not the place you'd look for a restaurant. It's got a nice white fence outside and the diner is indeed an old diner car looking place. Inside they have an old photo of it. It's nicely appointed, but tiny. It has 9 stools to sit on around a counter that stretches from the entrance to the left around a corner. The stools add to the atmosphere, but aren't the most comfortable for those of us of larger stature, if you get my drift. Outside they have an umbrella-shaded table with four chairs and some wooden benches with a counter to eat at. Since it was a gorgeous day today, we decided to eat out side. One thing to mention: It's CASH ONLY. Didn't want to forget that.
We didn't look at a menu. We've been there many times and know what we like. Tara got a cheeseburger with no tomato, fries, and a glass of water. I got a hot dog, fries, a can of grape soda (I LOVE grape, and not many places have it), and a glass of water. They gave us the drinks and we sat down at the table and waited.
After maybe ten or fifteen minutes, our order was up. Since we sat outside, we got baskets with our orders. Usually when you sit inside, you get your meal on a paper plate or some such. Either way, the taste isn't affected. :) Tara's burger was stacked with the toppings and she dove in. My dog was piled high with mustard, relish, and chopped onions. I didn't see any ketchup like I ordered, but that was fine. It is a great hot dog, partially deep fried first and then finished on the grill. It gives it a great texture and flavor. I ate it in short order. The burgers are grilled with the ketchup and mustard added during cooking, as well as some olive oil. Tara loves the burgers as much as I do the hot dogs. The best part of the meal for me, though, is the fries. They are nothing extraordinary. Just fresh sliced, skin-on potatoes, blanched, and then fried. You can watch them do it all from the stools. They have the industrial potato slicer mounted on the wall and the plastic bins of blanching fries are on a shelf. What comes out of the fryer is a golden-brown, crispy slice of perfection. They toss them with some salt and serve. About as basic as you can get, but they are my favorite fries in the Valley. Dip them in the ketchup, and enjoy. Tara agrees with a couple caveats. First, for thin fries, she loves the seasoned fries at Grilled Expedition in Desert Ridge. They have a 10-spice seasoning that is really good. One of them is sugar, which surprised us the first time, but definitely adds something. Second, for sweet potato fries, she craves them from Delux.
Part of the Welcome Diner experience is eating inside. They have a random selection of books on the counter to read, like 50 Jobs Worse Than Yours, Bush quotes, What If..., and things to promote conversation. Given the close quarters seating, you generally will chat with or overhear your neighbor's conversations. Most of the crowd there is used to this and it makes for a very friendly place. The owner and his sous-chef are really cool and make you feel welcome. We've had/heard some fairly racy conversations from time to time, but it's all in good fun. It's very much a neighborhood dining experience. I believe they also try to use organic or locally produced vegetables and stuff as well. They have some gourmet relishes and toppings for the burgers, too, but we like ours regular just fine.
My biggest problem is with their hours. They are open Monday through Saturday, 11am to 2pm. We left close to 2pm, and they were still mostly full. If you are downtown for work or on the weekend hitting the farmers market, I'd highly recommend stopping in.
Our meal came to just under $13 for a cheeseburger, hot dog, two orders of fries, and a can of soda. It's a deal that is hard to beat. If you start adding extra toppings, it can add up quickly. We've eaten here four or five times now, and haven't had a bad meal.
And again, it's cash only. But luckily, it's not that much. If you are in the area and even briefly consider a chain burger place, head directly for Welcome Diner. Odds are, you will actually spend less money. I won't say it's any healthier, but you'll definitely enjoy it a lot more.
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