Date May 31, 2006 at 10:00 PM
Recently, a regular customer of the Range Café in Bernalillo passed away. "He was a pretty unique and humorous guy," owner Matt DiGregory tells me as we sit on the patio of the new Standard Diner, "he mentioned us in his obituary-apparently one of his favorite things in life was our Huevos Rancheros." Though there aren't any huevos on the Standard Diner menu, a few items in the eclectic array of options are bound to become memorable classics, such as the "Otis Burger" (named after DiGregory's great uncle) with roasted beets, fried egg, bacon and cheddar. Or maybe "Osee's Roasted Tomato Soup" with garlic, mozzarella and a pesto swoosh. Grandma Osee used to run a diner herself back in the 1930s in Indiana, where Matt and his three business partner brothers (Jon, Cris and Vince) grew up. "Ah, the Midwest," DiGregory smiles, "a great place to grow up, a great place to leave." Seems Grandma inspired more than just an appetite with her cooking, as the Standard is modeled after her 1930s style diner.
In addition to inspiration gleaned from Grandma, he's always been intrigued by the idea of the "finer diner," a concept he'd seen successfully implemented in his travels to San Francisco and other major cities. And, after being with the Range Café for fourteen years, DiGregory was looking for a new challenge, something different. So the four brothers decided to open the Standard Diner. (Four brothers? How does that work? "Well," Matt chuckles, "we haven't killed each other yet.") The location in the up and coming EDO has been a bit of a challenge, and wasn't the original spot the DiGregory brothers had in mind. "We were looking over in the Slate Street area and had a bid in on a building when I saw the sign on the old medical supply building. Funny thing is, in 1990, I bought a 1969 classic convertible from this location when it was an automobile dealership. I remember thinking even then that it would be a great space for a restaurant." So after being briefly deterred by lack of space for a kitchen ("Why don't I just throw in the building next door?" the building owner kindly offered), the Standard became the new kid on the block. "We're lucky to have the Artichoke Café as neighbors, and now the Grove Market is opening up the street as well." If all goes according to city plan, DiGregory thinks the neighborhood will rival Nob Hill for shopping and dining.
It's been a bit slow going, but Albuquerqueans are getting used to this new notion of the finer diner. Matt admits, "The initial impression was that we were expensive and that's been a hurdle." However, people are noticing attentive details such as all of the bread is baked on site twice a day and many menu items are made from scratch. Come on, as much as you'd like to think so, we know your mom did not make her meatloaf with veal stock. "Our food is a twist on the classics. There's an air of familiarity, but done differently-like the chicken fried tuna, for example. We're taking food and not being serious about it while we're being serious."
The Standard Diner is located at 320 Central SE in Albuquerque. They're open Monday through Thursday from 11am to 9:30pm, Friday 11am to 10pm, Saturday 9am to 10pm, and Sunday, 9am to 9:30pm. 505.243.1440