I find the atmosphere at Standard Diner, which opened in 2006 in an
old Central Avenue car dealership, to be pleasantly surprising. It has a
touch of elegance and comfort and takes the idea of an old-fashioned
diner and into the 21st century, fully revamped and primped. The outside
gives a vibe of a classic Route 66 eatery, with its neon lights
outlining the roof and metallic trimmings. Yet the inside is more
upscale and distinguished than a typical diner. It is definitely a place
where you can either kick back and chow down, or suit up and enjoy
320 Central SE, 505.243.1440
11a-9p, Mon.-Thu.; 11a-9:30p, Fri.; 10:30a-9:30p, Sat.; 10:30a-9p, Sun.
I think that’s what makes Standard Diner unique — the
fact that the classics have been transformed into modern favorites. The
zest added to many of the courses in recent months is thanks to new
Executive Chef Saul Paniagua. An Albuquerque native, Paniagua has won
prestigious awards and has spent years perfecting his culinary talents
in New Mexico and around the world, as a cruise line chef and elsewhere.
highly recommend his Standard Chicken and Waffles ($14). I know it
might not sound like an interesting choice, but trust me when I say
there’s nothing ordinary about the dish. The waffles are made of blue
corn and green chile, which makes them possibly the most New Mexican
waffles in existence. The chicken is piñon-crusted. But the show stopper
of the whole plate is the Marble-beer syrup. Drowning those waffles
with a sweet and rich sauce enhances each flavor.
favorite my dining companion and I couldn’t resist was the Bacon Wrapped
Jalapeño Poppers ($10). Five jalapeños stuffed with smoked gouda,
golden raisins and green chile, with piñon adding to the flavor, are
beyond tasty. The golden raisins add a sweet pinch to the spice of the
green chile and bite from the jalapeño. We commented on how we could
probably eat 20 of them and not feel a single ounce of guilt.
great thing about the menu is that the entrée options vary from plates
like the chicken and waffles to more refined dishes like Seared Salmon
($19). The salmon was grilled to perfection and literally melted in my
mouth. It came with a plate full of roasted vegetable couscous, which in
my opinion was much more than a side dish, and perhaps the best item I
tasted at Standard Diner.
There was one item that I underestimated.
Only because I couldn’t think of a way to make an ordinary grilled
cheese sandwich into something extraordinary. All I can say is
definitely don’t overlook the Standard Grilled Cheese ($10). This daddy
of all grilled cheese sandwiches is loaded with not one but three
excellent cheeses: brie, gruyére and mozzarella — all melted between two
slices of green chile brioche, along with balsamic syrup, green apples
and heirloom tomato jam.
The Bread Pudding ($6) was our choice of
desert. Topped with a scoop of ice cream on the warm bread, it satisfied
our sweet-tooth cravings and warmed our tummies as much as it warmed
our mouths, leaving us feeling sweetly satisfied and content.
Diner, with it unexpected ingredients and modern take on traditional
diner food, has become a culinary treasure in East Downtown. Mixing the
old with the new pushes the standards expected from an American diner
right out the door. Standard Diner keeps the old Route 66 memory alive,
for a new generation, with its modern diner motif and menu.