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Debby's Diner: Good food and a 50's vibe

The first time I walked into Debby’s Diner in Phoenix several years ago, it was right in the middle of the drum solo in the Surfaris’ hit, “Wipeout,” streaming from one of SiriusXM’s music channels.

I joined the happy noontime crowd and settled in at the counter, welcomed by a friendly waitress who offered me a menu and a big smile. Customers who had been there a time or two were greeted by name.

Today, under its third ownership, Debby’s continues to pack them in at 3808 S. Pacific Highway. Each owner added a unique touch to the operation, but the restaurant’s strength is its staff — in the kitchen and front of the house. Many are long-term employees who take pride in the quality of their food and service.

The vibe is vintage mid-century. Colorful Formica tabletops pop over a linoleum floor of black, red, and white tiles. A long lunch counter faces the kitchen, and red vinyl booths line the outer walls.

Breakfast and lunch are the stars at Debby’s, which is open daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. except for Friday and Saturday, when it’s open until 8 p.m.

My favorite of the breakfast specialties is the Mexi Scramble for $9.49. It’s a mouth-watering flavor-bomb of eggs, hash browns, seasoned ground beef, bell peppers, cheddar and onion, served with pickled jalapeños, sour cream, salsa and warm corn or flour tortillas. It’s a creamy, crunchy, crispy bite with a little heat.

Debby’s is one of the few places in the Rogue Valley where you can get Canadian bacon with your eggs. Other meat choices include pork chops, hamburger, New York Steak, sausage (links, patty, or German), ham, and bacon (I score it 10 out of 10 on the scrumptious scale).

On the lunch side, the house-made soups are legendary — only $2.99 for a cup and $3.99 for a bowl. Chili is on the menu daily. It’s a little spicy for my taste, but I like it on the chili burger.

Debby’s does burgers right, with grilled 100% fresh ground chuck. The burger baskets are served with pickles and onion on the side, and come with a choice of sides. If you choose fries, go for the regular ones. They have a crunchy exterior and a light, fluffy interior. Avoid the house-cut fries. They have a nice flavor but are limp, with a capital L. The standard double fry would solve that problem.

At Debby’s, you don’t have to be a senior citizen or child to try the diner’s lighter options.

For breakfast, a couple of one-egg dishes go for $7.29 each — the Little Buster with bacon or sausage and either French toast or a pancake, or the Mini Diner Deal: egg, meat and toast.

There are lighter lunch choices, as well. My favorite is the half-sandwich and a cup of soup for $7.39. I also like the chicken strips, but they’re a little inconsistent. They’re usually deliciously moist with a nice crunch, but sometimes they’re overcooked and dry.

Hot turkey sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy are ready at 11 a.m., with roast beef and meatloaf options.

I tried Debby’s fish and chips for the first time recently. I dipped a piece of the battered fried cod into some tartar sauce and took a bite. The crispy exterior was perfection, the fish tender and moist. That was $10.99 well spent.

New owner Daron Springer added an Italian steak sandwich to the menu, based on an old family recipe. It’s an Italian roll with a fried, hand-breaded pork cutlet, marinara sauce and provolone cheese. It’s served with a choice of sides for $10.99. It’s a juicy, gooey bit of heaven.

Hot and cold sandwiches, salads, and vegetarian options fill out the menu.

The Friday and Saturday night dinners are served from 4 p.m., featuring pasta, steak, and seafood (with baked or mashed potatoes). If you can’t get anyone to cook liver and onions for you, Debby’s will come to the rescue, for $12.99.

Save room for pie. Co-owner Amie Springer bakes lemon meringue, Oregon marionberry, cherry and apple pies, using her grandmother’s recipes. A refrigerated case up front displays whole pies to take home for $15 and $15.99 each.

I used to think of my daughter playing the drum solo at high school basketball games when I heard “Wipeout” on the radio. Now I also think of lunch at Debby’s Diner.

Jim Flint is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

A refrigerated case of homemade pies to take home tempts customers at Debby’s Diner in Phoenix. The restaurant offers traditional diner fare in an atmosphere with a mid-century vibe. Photo by Jim Flint{ } { } { } { }{ }