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People, restaurants changing

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A week ago, I was a bit depressed when I stopped by my favorite coffee shop. I mentioned to the barista, Eric, that it was my day of doom.

“Why is that?” he asked. “I’m 70 today.” “Well, that’s not so bad. You’ve already got past the worst of it.”

I’m not sure why this made me feel so much better. I could have wondered if I had also got past the best of it.

But that’s a distraction. I planned to write this column not about the worst (or best) of it for a columnist, but for food in Silver City. I’ve been here almost 24 years and seen many changes, but an important symbolic change in my mind is the possible end of Diane’s Restaurant.

Diane’s was here when I came, and I assumed it would be here when I left in a box. I’m not sure why this particular place looms large in my mind. Nancy’s Silver Café was also here, and it still is — with a facelift. Adobe Springs was here, and it still is — in a new location. The Buffalo Bar was here, and it still is — empty.

Owner Diane Barrett told me last spring that the restaurant would open soon, and then she said it again in the fall. She said one of the problems in the restaurant business is fi nding good help. People don’t want the jobs that they used to want.

I said I had heard that waitstaff don’t make enough from wages and tips to pay for the more expensive rentals, often hard to fi nd at any price. But I notice that other restaurants are getting by without waitstaff. For example, Revel morphed into the Surly Lunchbox, where you pay at the counter. Other restaurants do what they can to cut personnel costs.

Just as I started writing this report, I heard that Diane’s had been reopened by Diane’s son, Bodhi. I heard this Saturday and went there the same day, but it was empty and closed. I hope that the rumor is true, but you know how rumors go in this town.

I haven’t given up on Diane’s Parlor, the wine bar in the restaurant. In fact, if you go through the alley behind the co-op, you can see that a cute outdoor dining area has been added. It would be a shame if it were never used. I know I’m not the only one missing the Parlor.

But if you start talking about restaurant memories, there are a lot more to consider. It wasn’t that long ago that Silver City had its Gourmet Golden Age. We had Jake’s (sometimes known as Spaghetti Western), the Curious Kumquat, Tre Rosat, Shevek’s and Diane’s — all with gourmet credentials.

And yet many folks in Silver City had no idea. Some people avoid downtown, and were thrilled to see the addition of Denny’s — a place that I visit only under duress. Some people ask when we are going to get a Chili’s or an Olive Garden. Well, I

know the answer to that: Never. Silver City isn’t big enough to justify one of those mall restaurants. I used to visit relatives in Phoenix who debated which chain to visit: Cracker Barrel or Outback. I was thinking, “Don’t they have real restaurants in big cities?”

For better or worse, Denny’s is our only chain restaurant (other than fast food). Of course, you could argue that Little Toad Creek Brewery and Distillery is a chain because they have a branch in Las Cruces. And their beer and canned mixed drinks are spreading all over. I’ll probably get in trouble for dropping restaurant names but leaving some out. One thing I’m definitely leaving out is the Italian restaurant that we don’t have. Some local restaurants serve Italian dishes, but you had to go to Deming for Italian meals — although Forghedaboudit didn’t survive the pandemic.

I’m always happy to see a new ethnic restaurant, but I try to pig out quickly before they go out of business. I was one of the few regulars at the Indian/Nepali/Thai restaurant that had the bad fortune to start in The Hub Plaza near the beginning of the pandemic. The Peruvian restaurant didn’t last much longer.

When talking restaurants, I like to hear about the great ones from before my time. The food scene rolls over, but any excuse for green chile doesn’t change. Nor does the fact that if you don’t go to certain restaurants, you don’t see certain people.

To quote a song from my youth that applies to people and restaurants: “After changes we are more or less the same.”

Disclaimer:
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Southwest Word Fiesta™ or its steering committee.

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Bruce McKinney

Bruce McKinney is a Silver City business owner, close observer of local government and occasional troublemaker. In his column, which appears every other Wednesday, he tries to address big questions from a local perspective. Send comments and ideas to bruce@greensilverlinings.com.
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