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Red or Green?

Eatery Evolution

Always evolving, always interesting, Diane's in Silver City has it all.

by Peggy Platonos

 

 

When I first arrived in the Silver City area back in 2007 and asked about good restaurants in town, Diane's was one of the two places mentioned. It was known, I was told, for its lunchtime fare of innovative soups, salads and sandwiches made with homemade artisan breads, as well as for its delectably upscale dinner menu.

diane's
Diane Barrett sits at the wine and beer bar in The Parlor, flanked by her two sons, Bodhi Werber (left) and Daniel Benavidez, both of whom play major roles in Diane’s Restaurant.

By that time, I now know, the establishment had expanded far beyond owner Diane Barrett's initial vision. An award-winning trained pastry chef with impressive experience as a baker at El Dorado, Santa Fe's largest luxury hotel, and at the Ritz-Carlton on the island of Maui in Hawaii, Diane returned to Silver City in 1996 with the youngest of her three children. She had lived here in the 1970s while married to Frank Werber, and the two had established the first health food store in Silver City.

Back in town after an absence of nearly 20 years, she decided to put her baking talents to good use, and set out to create a small bakery operation in a storefront on Bullard Street. She launched the business on a shoestring budget.

"I got a $5,000 micro-loan from the Women's Economic Self-Sufficiency Team, bought a secondhand stove for $20, and opened the doors on May 1, 1996," she says.

Her artisan breads and fancy pastries were an immediate hit. The pastry parlor concept quickly edged toward restaurant status, as people asked for soups and sandwiches, in addition to baked goods. Diane responded with enthusiasm and creativity.

In 1998, the growth of the venture took a quantum leap forward as Diane's older son, Bodhi Werber, left a lucrative chef's position in Hawaii and joined the business.

"Mom really needed some help, and it was a wonderful opportunity for me," Bodhi explains. It was he who added the fine dining dimension to the thriving little restaurant. "I felt there was a need for a different type of food in this area."

The adjacent storefront was acquired to add more seating space. "We cut out sections of the wall, and doubled our size. Had a big party to celebrate," Diane says. "We got a beer and wine license, and went to fine dining at night."

"Dinner — that's where we shine," Bodhi says, his enthusiasm clearly undimmed 15 years later.

Diane's younger son, Daniel Benavidez, has also joined the business and brings his own intense and quirky style to the operation.

"I am a firm believer in family," Diane says. "We all cook. We all bake. Our strength is in the kitchen. And that's where it ought to be."

Do the three see eye to eye on everything? Well, no. "We often disagree, but we talk it out," Diane says. "Bodhi and I argued for six months before I let him put the green chile in our Fettuccine Alfredo. It sounded awful to me, but the Green Chile Alfredo has turned out to be a very popular dish."

 

Diane's business has continued to grow in response to the needs and desires of its customers. Eight or nine years ago, the restaurant expanded into the third store in the same building, adding still more seating. This is now the casual section known as The Parlor, with a wine and beer bar, live music in the evenings, and lighter fare available throughout the day.

"The Parlor was our answer to the Recession," Diane says. "We opened it about three years ago, with burgers, sandwiches, homemade pizzas, paninis. It's a relaxing environment where you don't have to spend a lot of money."

The Parlor menu also offers inexpensive and unusual treats like Homemade Hummus & House Crostini for $4, Four Dolmas (vegetarian) for $3, Marinated Goat Cheese & Fresh Bread for $6 and Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables in Olive Oil with Bread for $6.

"Actually, you can get anything you want in the Parlor — any of the food that's available in any part of the establishment at the time," Bodhi explains. "Filet mignon for dinner in the Parlor? Sure. But in the main dining area, only the fine dining menu is available at night. No burgers. No pizza. We put on the dog in there."

"Linens. Candlelight. Fine dining," Diane agrees.

The bakery operation around which the restaurant evolved is now located in a separate building across the street in The Hub, where quality deli products are offered, as well as the original artisan breads and fancy pastries. "We also sell breakfast burritos on weekday mornings, pizzas, big Hoagie sandwiches, fancy cakes, homemade pies," Diane says.

"The bakery and deli is more like the operation she first envisioned," Bodhi says. "I kind of pushed us into the full dinner."

Lunch, of course, is less costly than dinner. Sandwiches range from $7.50 (for cold ham and cheddar or a "Big Bun" with two eggs and bacon or ham) to $9.25 (for grilled tuna with ginger-caper tartar sauce or the Bullard Street Cheese Steak). Meal-sized salads cost anywhere from $7.75 for a Caesar Salad to $9.50 for a Grilled Tuna Salad. There are several kinds of quiche available for $7.75, and Diane's Spanakopita costs the same.

Dinner prices range from $15 for Asian vegetable red curry to $31 for Parmesan-crusted halibut. Steaks cost from $20 for a 10-ounce New York strip steak to $28 for filet mignon. Special toppings are available for all steaks at additional cost.

Gluten-free items are available for all meals. And the kitchen will do its best to accommodate other food allergies, as well.

The main restaurant with the Parlor section is located at 510 N. Bullard. It's open every day except Monday. The Parlor is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

In the main dining area, lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, with brunch and lunch available on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. And $2 champagne is available all day on Saturday and Sunday.

Dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

On Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m. in the main dining area, a special cook's choice "Family Meal" is offered for $9. "This is usually a one-bowl meal — Spaghetti & Meatballs, Meatloaf & Potatoes, Lasagna and salad, something like that," Diane says. "There's no fine dining on Sunday nights."

The Bakery & Deli is located at 601 N. Bullard in The Hub. It's open seven days a week — 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Diane's also does catering for events of all sizes.

The telephone number for the restaurant is (575) 538-8722. For the bakery-deli, the number is (575) 534-9229.

Local residents can sign up for Diane's "Locals Club" to receive a 15% discount on food prices, as well as e-mail notices of special events like the recent Tapas Night.

 

 

 

Send Mimbres freelance writer Peggy Platonos tips for restaurant reviews
at platonos@gilanet.com or call (575) 536-2997.

 





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