Checkers Diner owners Jesus Garcia and Marlen Ramirez were not expecting to win this year’s Readers’ Choice award. The restaurant won best neighborhood restaurant/Northeast Side three years in a row but slipped to second place in 2010. Garcia and Ramirez, who have been in ownership for a short six months, managed to accomplish quite a feat; by readers’ standards, they have improved the business without changing the food or staff.
Customer favorites include chicken-fried steak and meatloaf. The chicken-fried steak is made with fresh beef that is hand-battered and served with gravy made on-site. There are no canned ingredients in the meatloaf — the tomatoes and parsley, along with all the vegetables, are bought fresh at least every other day. Ramirez credits this preparation for the meatloaf’s popularity and homemade taste.
The salmon is fresh, not frozen, topped with lemon and butter and surrounded by a cucumber, onion, tomato and basil relish.
Along with their famous home-style dishes and less prominent but equally delicious seafood, Checkers is known for its desserts.
“It’s not just a place for lunch and dinner,” Ramirez said. “It’s a place to hang around in the afternoon and have a dessert or a shake.”
She recommends the cheesecakes — complete with house-made crust — cobblers and banana shakes. Another suggestion is the rice pudding. Checkers soaks the rice overnight, marinates the raisins in white wine, then adds butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and heavy cream. The pudding is caramelized before serving.
Checkers diner, 13835 Nacogdoches Road, is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. on Sunday.
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