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Standard Diner has the winning recipe for foodies

Standard Diner on Central is like an elegant roadside diner out of the past.

Slick neon finishes on the outside signal to timeless weary motorists that the dining room and comfort-food menu inside are worth stopping for.

Buffalo chicken sliders are three freshly made mini rolls with shredded chicken drenched in a delicate buffalo sauce at Standard Diner. (Jason K. Watkins/For The Journal)

Weary motorist or not, eating at Standard Diner is definitely worth it.

My meal started with a big cup ($4.99, a bowl is $6.99) of tomato soup that was thick and creamy, and had a great flavor. It was filling, though, and their idea of a cup is most restaurants’ idea of a bowl, so it was worth ordering.

The best part of the meal was the special appetizer, the buffalo chicken sliders ($8.99 for three), and I would gladly make another trip to Standard just for these: three freshly made mini rolls come stuffed with shredded chicken drenched in a delicate, not-too-spicy buffalo sauce, and topped with a fantastic coleslaw salad, and finished with fried sliced pickles on top.

The sliders were great. Shredded chicken is an unexpected twist in a buffalo chicken sandwich – most are either breaded and fried or grilled – but here it made for a nice texture and carried huge flavor. A hint of vinegar mixed with the spicy peppers in the buffalo sauce and the crunchy cabbage in the slaw, and it might just make the perfect appetizer.

The main dish was also good, but the sliders were a tough act to follow. I ordered the mac and cheese with carne adovada ($11.99, extra $4.99 for carne adovada) and wasn’t disappointed, although the creamy cheese sauce could have used a bit more of something: it was packed with cheese and was plenty savory, but it didn’t quite have the sharpness or richness normally associated with mac and cheese.

The dish came with three cheeses, primarily Gruyere, with sharp cheddar and a little Parmesan on top, and the corkscrew-tube pasta held onto it well.

I might have found more flavor had I chosen bacon instead of carne adovada, but the braised beef added a nice flavor and a little protein. Overall, the dish was tasty and original, was probably a little underpriced for what I got, and was certainly filling.

Standard Diner has been operated for a dozen years by the same people behind The Range and Freight House restaurants, but the building on the original Route 66 has deep roots in Albuquerque. It was built as a service station in 1938 and was once a car dealership. It has even played host to the TV Network’s Guy Fieri, although, to be fair, most restaurants in America have hosted that guy.

The service is wonderful and they’ve got plenty of parking on site. The place is conveniently located downtown off Central and the interior has retained much of the filling-station grandeur from the past, though all the fixtures and finishes are brand new.

It’s got a formal-ish vibe, but there’s nothing stuffy or pretentious about the menu or the ambience, which is split into two main dining areas (one of which used to serve as the automobile service bay).

They’ve also got great, convenient hours, so you can grab breakfast, lunch or dinner seven days a week. Plenty of beers on tap, wine bottles and mixed drinks are also on the menu, appealing to the happy-hour crowd.

Speaking of crowd, most diners on a recent Sunday evening seemed to be locals. A big group was celebrating a birthday and a middle-aged couple looked like they were enjoying a date. Although it wasn’t a Friday or Saturday dinner service, the place seemed fairly quiet and seating was immediate.

I look forward to going back to Standard Diner, both for the buffalo chicken sliders and also to try more of the American comfort food on the menu, like the homemade meatloaf or the chicken-fried steak.

The menu at Standard was created to reward eaters in the know with both quantity and quality.

3 stars