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Cheap Eats: Cindy Lou’s Cafe

The Southwest Melt ($5.95) with fries at Cindy Lou's Cafe, 3329 E. Benson Highway

The Southwest Melt ($5.95) with fries at Cindy Lou's Cafe, 3329 E. Benson Highway

What: Cindy Lou’s Cafe

Address and phone: 3329 E. Benson Highway, 573-1915

Hours: 5:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 6 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday

What was ordered: Lou’s Sub Roll ($6.75), Southwest Melt ($5.95) and one soft drink ($1.35) for a total of $15.77 with tax, well within our Cheap Eats goal of a meal for two for less than $20.

Comments: Benson Highway is lined with the shells of Route 66-style diners and motels that prospered until the completion of Interstate 10 left this tourist strip largely devoid of tourists.

The road feels overly wide these days given the paucity of activity, but what little traffic there is seems to head for Cindy Lou’s parking lot.

Though this friendly diner wasn’t around in this manifestation during Benson Highway’s heyday, it sure could have been. That certain timeless quality of pleasing American fare in a relaxed setting with good service permeates the place.

Cindy Lou’s seems to do the bulk of its business with breakfast, but a good assortment of lunch and “dinner” items are on the menu. “Dinner” here is more about scope and scale, not time of day, as the cafe closes in early afternoon.

We went with a pair of sandwiches that delivered good taste and generous yet pleasantly appropriate portions for the money.

The Southwest Melt ($5.95) came on nicely grilled sourdough. Rather than being overstuffed, it had a well-gauged amount of roast beef, cheese, chile and tomato to compliment the sourdough. The beef was of the cheesesteak variety, and we were impressed with the excellent chile flavor that came through, as green chiles on sandwiches can often be of a rather flavor-challenged state – even when they don’t come from a can. The sandwich was generously surrounded with a serving of fries that were hot and crispy but not otherwise notable.

The Lou’s Sub Roll ($6.75) also featured a good balance of ingredients, this time in the grilled sub roll. The ham, turkey, slices of American and Monterey jack cheeses, tomato, onions and lettuce were neatly stacked and portioned in a way that allowed the nice toasty nature of the cut slices of sub roll to give the sandwich a somewhat signature appeal. It wasn’t a jaw-dropping experience, but rather one that let us appreciate the true payoff of a good sandwich – an appropriate balance of ingredients matched to the appropriate bread, prepared appropriately.

Cindy Lou’s seems to have a loyal clientele whose members relax and enjoy themselves in harmony with the homey, comfortable feel of the place.

There may not be many out-of-towners pulling off the highway to eat here these days, but this clean, well-run diner is good enough to have people reacquainting themselves with what used to be the main drag for travelers.

Service: Tableside service was prompt and friendly. The server frequently swung by to refill drinks and make sure every little thing was OK.

Bar: no

Children’s menu: yes

Web site: no

Most recent health inspection: An “excellent” rating Aug. 13, 2007. No critical violations were reported.

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