Time flies when you’re having fun; which I usually am!
Column by Dusty Miller
It’s more than six months since the American-styled Deano’s Diner opened at Avondale, yet it was only this week I explored it.
That was about a year after I was first alerted to the refreshing concept having bumped into owner Dean Westlake and restaurant consultant Atilio Vigoriti lunching and discussing the project, at the rather disappointing Steak Out in Avondale Shopping Centre.
Dean’s Diner (DD from now on) is arguably on the wrong side of the road at Avondale for passing trade, at the back of the old George Hotel, where the dreadfully potholed Kenny Road meets King George Road, (a major arterial thoroughfare which, in parts, isn’t much better), but is pumping on word of mouth referrals.
Urged by readers, I’d tried to go to DD once before but, driving from the Lomagundi Road end, the traffic constriction at the intersection outside the eatery was so bad, I aborted my mission and any attempt to turn right.
Anyway, I made it on Wednesday…and loved the place, even though I’m not the greatest fan of hamburgers or, indeed, take-aways.
At DD’s you can indeed take the grub away….which was obviously tremendously popular with families and messengers from businesses collecting shipping orders or eat on-site, either indoors or out.
There was a slight hint that the sun may come out for the first time since my return from a sweltering cloudless South Australia and the arid Persian Gulf and, as grim, grey, dreary, damp Ha-ha-ha-rare (Africa’s fun city) was getting up my nose, I chose a spot outside. My table was whimsically within two sections of what must have been a much-loved, highly polished 1958 Buick.
When I’d driven past I merely thought Dean was plagiarising a Hot Rock Café theme — wherever the architecture and local health and safety Gestapo allow it — of having the front end of a classic American car protruding from its premises.
But no, Dean’s demobilised ghetto-cruiser is a practical but fun seating area, which would be adored by my grand-children. I also liked it very much as a half-hearted sun slightly warmed the spot and it was close to an audio speaker playing great hits of the 1960s and even 1950s. I enjoy the Big Bopper, Beatles and The Byrds as much as I do Bach, Beethoven and Berlioz.
In fact I could have sat there all afternoon if my duties had so allowed.
And being a notoriously slow eater, I was there some considerable time, chomping an astonishingly good, 200g cheese burger and bag of thin cut crispy “Louisiana” fries, followed by an excellent strawberry cheesecake, which — thankfully — was not as cloyingly sweet as they often are.
Despite being based in a former hotel (who remembers the grotesquely named Freckle and Phart Irish-themed bar at the George?) DD’s isn’t licensed to sell grog. It’s precisely the sort of place where a week earlier, in Adelaide, I’d have been spoiled for choice between horrendously dear lager, India Pale Ales and great locally grown wine, but in Avondale I was, sadly, restricted to cooldrinks or coffee.
Two largish polystyrene mugs of hot cappuccino went down well. (You get a free drink: soda, coffee or filtered water with each main item such as a burger, hot dog, chicken BLT, “proper” New York style sandwich or main course salad).
I wasn’t surprised Dean has made such a success of this project, as he’s a man who definitely knows what he’s doing.
After training as a chef in the UK and Germany, he joined Meikles Hotel as food and beverage assistant in 1980, leaving in 1989 as deputy general manager under the legendary Kai Hansen. For three years he ran Catercraft when its Harare Airport restaurant was one of the finest eating establishments in Central Africa and a regular destination venue for even non-travelling punters. (What on earth happened since….it’s now unbelievably poor; an embarrassment to Zimbabwean tourism.)
After that he ran Cairns Foods’ (they recently went into liquidation) canning factory in Mutare and in 1999 became managing director of DStv, a position he held until taking a two-year sabbatical to “find himself” before launching DD’s in June.
He jokes that he was conceived on the back seat of the ‘58 Buick and born on the front seat! Somehow I doubt he was pupped in 1958/59!
The only complaints I’ve heard about the place is that it’s allegedly not open long enough. Dean wants to run it with one shift only, so operates from 10am-6pm weekdays and 9am-2pm Saturdays (when a “babbelaas” breakfast is a speciality.)
They don’t take phoned orders, in the unlikely event you could trace their numbers, but boast a five-minute turn-around from choosing from the one page A5 menu to being served.
He said the pure beef patties were freshly made in-house each day and cooked to order. Hamburger buns and, all ingredients, were locally sourced and a “little old lady” baked the cakes, brownies, apple-and-berry pies, etc (all US$4 each as are waffles) daily.
Main courses range between US$4 for a hot dog, to US$8 for cheeseburger or Reuben’s sandwich: Smoked beef and cheese, sweet mustard, mayo and pickle on toasted rye-bread. (Don’t forget the free drink.) A mound of fries sprinkled with Cajun spice costs US$3.
Incidentally, talking about burgers, most of you will have heard horsemeat was found in Asda beef burgers in Ireland this week. A Mick pal of mine in Chegutu e-mailed the mayor of his home town to warn his constituents off burgers less they suffer the galloping runs! Boom! Boom!