5 & Diner
5025 Arizona Mills Circle (at South Priest)
Tempe, Arizona 85283
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 6AM-10PM; Friday-Saturday 6-11:30PM
The origins of the 5 & Diner go back to 1989 when founder Kenny Higginbotham bought a diner in the Phoenix area. His fascination with the 1950’s was artfully displayed with photos, posters, newspapers and other reflections of a quieter and yes happier time. Since then the concept has expanded to 9 Arizona locations, plus additional restaurants in Florida, Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio, Idaho, Iowa, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Massachusetts. Coming soon will be Connecticut and Texas.
It is hard to beat Arizona for good weather and golfing. Metropolitan Phoenix is reinventing itself in a number of ways that will result in more folks living and visiting downtown. To help in that regard by December of this year there will be the “launch” of the Metro Rail system. Electrically powered light rail type trains will connect the northwestern suburbs of Phoenix, travel through the downtown portion of the city out to Tempe. Tempe is, of course, best known for being the home of Arizona State University and their “Sun Devils” football team. The Mills Avenue district in Tempe is well known as a lively boulevard offering a number of dining, retail and drinking and entertainment venues. It will be a short walk from the Tempe light rail station to Mills Avenue once service starts in December. Of course weather won’t be a problem while you are walking! An added plus is that your walk will reveal “sneak” peaks of South Mountain.
You will however need a car to travel to the 5 & Diner, close by the Arizona Mills Mall. It’s about a 10 minute drive and there is plenty of free parking. Your first sight of the diner is sure to bring back memories of similar silver railroad type diners in the northeastern United States. The actual diner is longer than it is wide and has the classic “counter” bordering the kitchen. A veritable plus is the old fashioned “soda” fountain, ok “pop” fountain for those who call it as such. The Tempe location was complete with booths around the walls, with an endless array of Elvis, Marilyn, Marlon and James Dean photos. A bicycle was suspended from the ceiling and the spotless stainless steel, acrylic and tile contributed to a genuine retro 50’s feeling. This was our first visit to the 5 & Diner and it was for breakfast.
We were promptly seated and coffee appeared. It’s hard for your reviewer to pass up Blueberry Pancakes ($6.49) so there wasn’t the need for a lot of deliberation. The breakfast menu is fairly wide with regional specialties like Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs for $8.29, Chili Verde Scrambled Eggs at $6.99 or Chorizo Con Huevos at $7.59. There are 12 offerings of three egg Omelettes and 10 variations on Pancakes and Waffles. Likewise side orders abound, including homemade Biscuits with Gravy for $2.99 and a la carte breakfast meat. My companion ordered the Chorizon Con Huevos which translates to scrambled eggs with Mexican sausage, Potatoes, Flour Tortilla and Refried Beans. This meal was pronounced “eggcellent” and brought back happy memories of my companion’s youth in the Phoenix area. The plate was clean in short order! My own meal was also to my satisfaction, with sugar free syrup on the side as requested. The pancakes were a good balance of being cooked properly but not “leaden”. Blueberries, not the type with goopy cornstarch, were both inside as well as on top. The only “hitch” was the intervals between coffee refills. Although busy, the diner wasn’t “packed” so it was unclear why it took a bit of time for the refills. Eventually we just reached over the back of our booth and did it our selves. Having noted that, the service was good and friendly in all other regards. In terms of a rating, taking into consideration the quality of the food and the ambiance, I’d feel comfortable with 2.75 Chews. Absent the coffee refill challenge it would have been a 3 Chews. So if you want a trip back to the future and you are in the area, the 5 & Diner would be a good choice. They claim that they have the best burgers and shakes….so that will be tested at another time. Enjoy!
Pop Pop’s Score: 2.75 Chews
Subjective rating: Signs point to yes.
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