As a belated birthday celebration, my friends Karyn Zoldan and Edie Jarolim took me to Welcome Diner. I had never been but had heard great things about the place, which is an outlet of a wildly popular restaurant in Phoenix.
When we arrived the front room was packed. Located at the site of Chafin’s Diner, a long-time Tucson favorite, the restaurant maintains the Modernism look and feel both inside and out. A back room is available but we opted for one of the turquoise leatherette booths.
The menu is interesting; diner fare, sort of, and then some trendy options like Brussel sprouts and macaroni and cheese. The wine list is a nice blend of reds, whites, and bubbles. Beers are craft beers and the cocktail list is creatively hipster.
We began with the mac n’ cheese,
the roasted Brussel sprouts and a new dish to all of us, chicanoyaki, octopus masa balls topped with a jicama and orange salad, achiote sauce, avocado and cotija cheese. A red for both me and Karyn and a local brew for Edie were our libations.
You can add bacon, Brussel sprouts, chorizo or andouille sausage to the mac n’ cheese but we went naked. The dish was creamy and very cheesy and the tubular noodles were cooked perfectly. I would order this dish again.
The sprouts had been roasted and were tasty. The chicanoyaki was interesting and delicious. Four ping pong ball sized balls were golden brown and soft (we decided that had we had to guess octopus we might not have guessed octopus) but still the dish was a nice mix of sweet and spice, crispy and juicy. Again I think I might order again.
After much waffling, I ordered the chicken dinner.
Edie went with the vegetable cassoulet. Karyn orders the wood-fired trout.
We enjoyed each of the dishes, but I have to say the trout was the winner of the evening. Salsa verse had been smeared across the top and was the perfect accompaniment to the tender, tasty fish.
One small gripe, the biscuit that came with my crunchy, spicy chicken was more like bread than a biscuit. My guess it has yeast as a leaven rather than the traditional baking powder. Perhaps because many of the items on the menu are made into sandwiches using biscuit as a base and they need something more substantial. ????
The server, who was terrific, comped us a slice of birthday, warm apple pie.
Anyway, I want to return soon. Breakfast and lunch will soon be part of the service at Welcome Diner. I think a breakfast there may be just the way to go.