Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Dave Faries
Editor 

Restaurant Review: Deacon's

Consistently Crowded

 

It can be difficult to find a parking spot near Deacon’s, despite the restaurant’s ‘other side of the tracks’ location.

It’s no stretch to label Deacon’s the most popular restaurant in Torrington.

Granted, I have not canvassed the town on this matter—just passing along an observation. With every parking spot filled during rush times, overflow traffic spreads down the block. Inside regulars greet each other and chat knowingly with staff members.

So what’s the deal? Masterful cooking?

Well, their ribs are meaty and tender, but overwhelmed by a barbecue sauce as shrill as a television talk show host. There is no subtlety, no slow revelation, only the sharp rebuke of vinegar and smoke, battering down the calm savor of pork. The salad bar consists of pale iceberg and other pedestrian bits. And their green bean and dumpling soup—a “soup of the day” one afternoon—came across as a somewhat clever attempt to dispose of leftovers.

Yet the dumplings (and indeed the soup itself) were homemade and properly dense, the milky stock light enough to allow green beans to steep into the broth. Gumbo, also prepared in house, skimped on okra and felt watery. On the other hand, the rustic, leafy quality of file powder grounded the soup nicely.

In other words, what draws people to Deacon’s has less to do with the sophistication of their kitchen than with their hands-on approach.

Chicken fried steak, offered as a special on particular day, rested under white gravy tasting of milk rather than roux. Yeah, the gravy could have used more pepper to enliven the crust, but the meat itself was tender and husky.

The restaurant served house fried chips, crispy and sprinkled with salt. They prepare their own mashed potatoes, although a more attentive hand would have used cream in the process. The menu lists a range of burgers, brisket sandwiches, pulled pork and other diner favorites.

If there’s an upscale touch to the place, it’s their arrangement to serve Starbucks coffee.

While the global coffee company has its detractors, Starbucks earned its reputation thanks to a relentless consistency. And that, finally, is what ensures Deacon’s station in Torrington: consistency.

I’ll be clear—Deacon’s is not the best restaurant in this region. It is, however, what every small town needs.

Too many places rely on Sysco or other corporate entities. Too many cooks simply tear open plastic and turn a knob. Deacon’s, on the other hand, requires their kitchen staff to perform such rudimentary tasks as preparing soup or whisking gravy.

Yeah—they also lean on pre-packaged goods…unless, as I said, they turned saucier duties over to some angry Fox or MSNBC host. But they lend enough “homemade” and enough “consistency” to their menu that people disappointed with the ups and downs and effortless conformity of other restaurants come back for more.

 

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