Of all the places we ate while we were in Scottsdale last month, our absolute favorite was Randy’s. Over five days, we ate there four times. It’s simple food, executed masterfully. Randy’s is a diner in the truest sense. And it’s in Arizona. Go figure.
Randy’s is in a strip mall just about a mile from our hotel. And at least superficially, it is not unlike Mitchell’s in Chicago, which is also in a strip mall. But unlike Mitchell’s, which is over-priced and full of douche-y Lincoln Parkers and their luxury strollers, Randy’s is full of just regular people and a little bit of nostalgia.
When you first get in, you have to walk by the ice cream section. All of my favorite places to eat have an ice cream section that you must navigate before you sit down or before you leave. Happy Joe’s. Friendly’s. And Randy’s.
Once you get seated, the wait staff brings you a cup of coffee right away. You know Randy’s is a legit diner because it has real coffee mugs and not the ludicrous kind you’d see on Friends. You can further tell that this place has real character because this particular mug has a handle that was once broken but was subsequently repaired with some sort of epoxy.
The menu at Randy’s is incredibly long. It’s at least 6 pages. Plus, there’s a specials menu. Plus plus, there’s a chalkboard with other, additional specials. My rule of thumb is that any place with a menu this long is going to have terrible food. Randy’s is the exception.
The first thing I ordered was off the specials chalkboard. It was the Fainting Goat omelette. It had goat cheese and spinach and onions inside. And it was served with perfectly cooked hash browns, something that has long been on the endangered species list in Chicago restaurants. The has browns were crispy but not greasy on the outside, and warm and soft on the inside. So seemingly simple, but difficult to execute. And they nailed it at Randy’s.
My wife ordered the bagel sandwich. She loves breakfast sandwiches. It came with home fries, which were so-so. I personally have a theory that a breakfast place can be good at hash browns or good at home fries but not both. The remarkable part about my wife’s breakfast was that all the bagels at Randy’s at baked on premises. They make their own bagels!
For dessert, we ordered off the breakfast specials chalkboard. And we got a nutella waffle. After all, my wife is pregnant. This was as good in your belly when you eat it as it is in your mind when you hear it. Nutella. Waffle. Mmmm.
Two mornings later, we returned to Randy’s. And, as a testament to the attentiveness of the wait staff, they recognized us from the prior weekend and welcomed our return. Amazing.
On that day, I wanted to get something more southwest-y. And so, huevos rancheros. The huevos rancheros were good. The chili was savory and filling, with just a touch of heat. The eggs were perfectly dippy. And it came with a side of those wonderful hash browns. It wasn’t the largest or the most extravagant serving of huevos rancheros I’ve ever had, but Randy’s is good like that. Portions are normal-sized and have somehow avoided the portion creep that afflicts most breakfast places these days. And because of that, prices are low. Which makes it easier to go back again and again and again.
The third time (in four days) that we went to Randy’s, I again wanted something that I might not be able to get in Chicago. So, I got a breakfast burrito. Not that there aren’t breakfast burritos in Chicago, and not that they don’t have really fantastic chorizo here, I somehow got the sense that the chorizo at Randy’s was locally sourced.
Whether it is or not, the breakfast burrito was a good choice. And, much like the huevos rancheros, the portion size of the breakfast burrito was perfect. Just enough to make me feel full. But not so much that I felt my manhood would be maligned if I could not clear the plate.
The eggs inside were nicely scrambled. The chorizo was nice. Something that I would certainly eat again. Plus, it comes with those fantastic hash browns.
On that same day, my wife got another breakfast sandwich. This time, she got her hash browns with cheese on top. And this is another way you can tell that Randy’s is a real diner and not some hipster/yuppie diner wanna-be diner. When you ask for cheese on your hash browns, you get a slice of melted american cheese. Delicious.
On our last day in Scottsdale, we went yet again to Randy’s. This time, I had a breakfast sampler, which was one egg, one slice of bacon, one sausage link, and one slice of french toast. And it was delicious. Any diner in New Jersey would be proud of a plate like this. And it cost less than 5 bucks, I think.
My wife chose to have yet another breakfast sandwich that day – I told you she loves breakfast sandwiches. This time, she got it on toast, which they also make in-house. Impressive, right? And they don’t even brag about baking their own bread. It’s almost like a footnote on their menu. Because at Randy’s, they just do it the right way – the old school way – and that’s just the way it is. Little pomp. And little circumstance. Humble. And delicious.
Places like Randy’s are the reason why I love diner food. And the fact that it’s not in the east coast makes it quite anomalous. The place is family owned and family run. The wait staff, the management, and the kitchen staff all really care about the place. And it shows.
It’s the kind of place that you can go for breakfast every day, which we did and will do again the next time we are in Scottsdale.