We love a greasy spoon as much as the next road tripper, but there is a time and a place for everything. When rolling through Tucson, AZ, Welcome Diner is where you want to eat/hang. Chef Michael Babcock and artist Sloane McFarland, co-owners of Phoenix’s eponymous flagship, as well as Welcome Chicken + Donuts, took over the space last fall from Chiffon’s Diner, which had operated here for 15 years. (The building itself dates to 1954, when the first tenant was Sambo’s Pancake House.)
Under the new ownership, the diner’s neon-lit mid-century exterior still has the same bones, but the interior is night and day. Gone are the dingy ceiling tiles, faux wood bar top, blood red paint, and dated vinyl booths. In their place: gleaming white walls, sky blue stools and booths, stylish brass pendant lamps, a gorgeous blonde wood bar, and wooden beams newly exposed in the original vaulted ceiling.
But enough about the decor; let’s talk food. Brunch/lunch is served seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and includes an andouille scramble, pork posole rojo, classic biscuits and gravy, and a braised jackfruit po’boy with slaw for our vegetarian pals. Dinner is on from 5 to 10 p.m. and drops a parade of sophisticated small plates (Baja clams in lemongrass broth; tempura broccolini with hot pimento cheese), large plates (pan-seared trout tacos and, OMG, the cassoulet with white tepary beans, smoked squash, and crème fraiche), and enormous fried chicken sandwiches. A limited late-night menu (10 p.m. to 2 a.m.) draws greatest hits from all of the above.
Welcome Diner also offers one of the most creative drink menus in town, starring fairly priced cocktails like the Sonoran Seventy Five (Three Wells’ award-winning prickly pear liquor + local honey lemon + and sparkling wine for $7) and the People Are Strange (gin + lemon + sugar + goat milk kefir + creme de cassis + Maraschino + soda for $8).
902 E. Broadway Blvd., Tucson, AZ; 520-622-5100.