Red Rock Diner |

Red Rock Diner

Christina Patterson

The Red Rock Diner is retro with taste. The 50’s diner motif is heavy and obvious, but it just stops short of being forced on you. In other words, the waitresses aren’t snapping gum and wearing roller skates.

The Red Rock is the center of the two diner poles in the valley. On one end there’s the 19th Street Diner in Glenwood, an authentic, non-pretentious server of all things chicken fried that is, as far as I can tell, the real deal. On the other end is Boogies Diner, also a server of things chicken fried, but the emphasis is really on the “Hey, it’s just like being in a real diner, sort of” aspect. 19th Street could be any small western town in America, Boogies could be any mall or theme park in America, and somewhere in between lies Red Rock, which could be anywhere in Carbondale…it just happens to be exactly where it is.

And that, friends, is about as philosophical as I can wax in regards to diners. Sorry to get so deep so soon.

The Red Rock serves breakfast, lunch and supper. Yes, supper. Says “supper” right there on the menu. I haven’t eaten “supper” since I was a kid. Alas, we visited the Red Rock at lunch time, which I understand is called “dinner” in some parts of the country.

Upon entering the Red Rock, you are greeted by a cardboard cutout of The Duke with a little cartoon talking bubble that says, “Howdy Pard, No Smoking.” This is not only authentic diner decor, but also maybe a bit of an in joke, especially if you know of the Duke’s hardships around tobacco. Once inside, there is a similar cutout of Roy Rogers informing us that “This section is closed.” Having Roy tell customers that is either an incredibly obscure in joke or just the only cutout they had left. I didn’t ask. I already had a seat in a different section.

Red Rock breakfasts are numbered. #13 is the breakfast combo platter, two eggs, two pancakes or a slice of French toast, choice of ham, bacon, sausage or garden sausage, hash browns and toast for $6.95. #10 is a $3.75 order of biscuits and sausage gravy. #5, steak and two eggs, hash browns, toast, $7.25. #9, the “2×4,” two eggs, four pancakes, five and a half dollars. There are also a couple of pancake variations, short stacks and blueberry filleds and pigs in their respective blankets and whoa!…breakfast sandwiches! A fried egg sandwich on English muffin or whole wheat toast for $1.75. My companion’s eyes lit up when he saw that, because he has this thing about fried stuff and another thing about sandwiches, so you can imagine his excitement. He was in for a disappointment, though, because breakfast is only served until 11:30. I pointed out that there were fried things on sandwiches available for lunch, too, and he perked up again.

It should be pointed out before I begin with the lunch menu that there is no chicken fried steak available at the Red Rock Diner until 5:00 pm…supper time. But you can have some avant garde (for the diner world) sandwiches like the vegetarian black bean burger with green chilies, cheese, salsa and guacamole ($5.75), and grilled portabella mushroom for $6.95 in addition to the standard array of burgers and sandwiches: patty melt on rye, bacon cheeseburger, Reuben, tuna melt and so on. All lunches come with choice of fries or house salad, fifty cents extra for curly fries (could be the best $.50 you spend all week) or a buck extra for rings.

Since it doesn’t look like spring is coming quite when expected, you may still look to fend off a blustery day with a bowl of soup or chili. There is also a veggie chili available ($3.95). It’s a treat when places that you don’t usually associate vegetarianism with, like diners, for example, really take into consideration other ways of eating, instead of just throwing some vegetables on some bread and calling it a dish. In this regard the Red Rock, well…rocks.

Just as a reminder to myself: Get the side order of lumpy mashers with gravy next time. Maybe even two orders. And oh yes, there is a soda fountain at this diner, with shakes, floats, malts, smoothies, splits, sundaes and all things a la mode. There is also, of course, a kids menu, including lil’ hot dogs, burgers, grilled cheeses and quesadillas for the booster chair crowd.

Supper includes a nightly pasta special for $8.95, tuna steak for $10.95, grilled salmon fillet for $12.95 and that diner food of diner foods…chicken fried steak for just $8.95. A stir fry for the veggies, personal pizza’s for the kids, a few wines and beers for the grown ups and that’s that.

Judging by the size of the lunch crowd when we were there, Carbondale makes good use of its local diner. The food is good and affordable, the folks are friendly, the booth seats are turquoise, the tabletops are pink, the floor is black and white checkered. And no one is wearing roller skates. Long live the diner!’