Penny’s Diner is the restaurant side of the Oak Tree Inn, a mini-chain of hotels that seem to be concentrated in “towns less than 2,000,” as they say on Prairie Home Companion. With a 1950’s diner theme, I observed real milk shakes being made and old fashioned hamburgers being grilled.
Although Penny’s is a chain, the one in the small wind-swept town of Vaughn has all the characteristics of a local restaurant, and has become a local hangout both for dining and take-out orders of coffee and food. One good thing about being a chain is that the home office in Wichita enforces a no-smoking policy in all its restaurants and hotels, a rule that would likely not be in force if local restaurants throughout eastern New Mexico are any indication.
As I have found in many restaurants, the waitress was unwilling to give me a clue about recommended dishes or what items the locals preferred. The Breakfast Burrito seemed like a good bet, though, and by the way is available any time along with all the breakfast items. The flour tortilla was lacking flavor, and did not taste home made, but thankfully was not dry or tough. The scrambled eggs inside were unexceptional. To add local flavor, though, the burrito can be smothered with either red or green chile at no additional cost. I was able to try both, and was impressed with both. The red chile contained ground meat in the style of Texas chili, but the flavor was pure New Mexico red. The green sauce tasted like freshly ground green chiles, and I thought was the better of the two toppings. The menu said the burrito came with hash browns. To my surprise, these were served inside along with the eggs, but I thought it turned out rather well. If Penny’s could serve its red and green chile throughout the chain from California to Buffalo, New York, it would likely have more customers than would fit at the diner style counter or the restaurant’s few tables. Overall this was not a great breakfast burrito by New Mexico standards, but would be more than I could probably ever expect in most of the states the restaurant serves.
The Orange Juice tasted institutional. Cups of coffee seemed to be a much better seller.
Hours: Open 24 Hours Daily
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Most Recent Visit: Sep. 21, 2006
Number of Visits: 1
Best Item: Breakfast Burrito