Second time’s a charm

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Review > The Fabulous ’50s Diner might just live up to its name, after making changes

By The Staff


First impressions are usually lasting ones, but sometimes you just have to give a restaurant a second chance. Maybe there was something going on that day, or maybe they were in the midst of a transition in ownership. For some reason they didn’t hit the mark the first time, but that may not necessarily be the case the second time around.

It took a few months to work up the courage to go back to the Fabulous 50’s Diner at the American Legion on Trinity Drive. During the first and last visit, the food was found to be mostly frozen, the portions a bit on the small side for the price and let’s just say the ambiance left much to be desired.

The second trip to the diner was made in search of breakfast. There are only a couple of restaurants in Los Alamos open in the morning on the weekend and the Fabulous 50s Diner is one of them. 

Upon entering the eatery, it was evident that some changes had already been made. Retro plastic tablecloths adorned the tables and the cheesy ’50s posters that had been on the walls have been replaced with other posters — these depict movie stars from the ’50s, such as James Dean, Elvis Presley, John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe — giving the establishment a better look and feel.

The other big change was the menu. Before, there were so many items on it that it took a few minutes to figure out what sounded good and what one might like to order. 

Now, the menu is much more streamlined and easier to get through. They still offer New Mexican dishes, burgers, barbecue and the usual diner fare, but it seems like there’s less of it, which is good. Sometimes you only need to offer a few things you do really well, rather than a bunch that are mediocre.

The breakfast choices are decent. The staples such as steak and eggs, breakfast burritos, pancakes, French toast and eggs are offered. One may also order cranberry juice or orange juice in addition to the usual tea, coffee and soda available. On this visit, two orders of steak and eggs and a breakfast burrito was ordered, along with two Pepsis and a glass of orange juice.

The Pepsis were brought out in large, hard plastic glasses, while the juice was served in a soft plastic cup — the kind a milkshake would come in. It’s easy to understand why, though. The Pepsi glass is huge and that would be a lot of juice, not to mention more expensive. The softer glass is about the right size for a juice serving. 

After the last experience, it was easy to imagine that most of the ingredients in the dishes would be frozen. 

However, that was not the case. And when the food was dug into, it was pleasantly surprising to discover that the hash browns accompanying the steak and eggs and inside the breakfast burrito seemed to be made from fresh potatoes. 

They were crispy but not burnt and done to perfection on all three plates.

The steaks that came with the steak and eggs were both ordered medium and came out exactly that way. They were nice and thick, too. One plate of eggs was done perfectly over easy and the other plate had scrambled eggs, which were also done perfectly. Both steaks could have used a bit of salt and pepper to punch up the flavor, but it wasn’t a big deal. The toast that accompanied each steak and eggs plate was perfectly done — not too soft, not blackened — and was served with butter and jelly.

The breakfast burrito was ordered smothered in red chile and was huge. It was packed with fluffy scrambled eggs, bits of bacon, crispy hash browns and smothered in a good amount of red chile. Sometimes at other establishments, not enough chile is put on the smothered burrito and so some of the bites are dry, but this was not the case. 

The chile had a very good flavor and was not too watery and not too thick. Someone in the kitchen knows what they’re doing. The only negative aspect was that while it had a very good flavor, the chile didn’t have any bite. It should be just a tad bit spicy, to let you know it’s there.

The food (except for the burrito) was served on ceramic plates, which is a nice change from the first visit, when everything came to the table on plastic cafeteria-style plates. The burrito, however, came on a pink plastic plate. Despite the presentation, the flavor was excellent, so it was easy to overlook the plastic plate.

The same waitress that was on duty during the first visit was there again for this visit. As usual, she was pleasant and friendly. The check was brought shortly after the food, but she did say there was no rush and if any dessert was desired, just let her know and she’d add it to the bill.

There were not many people in the restaurant, but it was early on a Sunday, so perhaps things picked up later, when lunch was served at 11 a.m. The salad bar was getting set up as we were getting ready to leave.

It seems the Fabulous 50s Diner has made some strides to change the way they do things and it shows. A third trip might be in order — this time for lunch or dinner — just to see what’s changed in that arena. A breakfast or two (or more) at the 50s is definitely recommended, especially if you enjoy a good breakfast burrito.

Breakfast for three before tax and tip came out to $30.60. Two orders of steak and eggs were $9.95 each; the breakfast burrito was $5.95; the juice was $1.25 and the Pepsis were $1.75 each.