Foodie Friends: Zia Diner

Any idea how many restaurants close each year? No? That’s okay, neither did we. It’s a lot. Trust us, we googled it. Stats from the National Restaurant Association say 60% of restaurants close within the first three years of business.

We have one word to say: depressing.

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So Beth Koch has a reason to smile. Heck, she’s got almost 26 reasons to smile because that’s how many years Zia Diner in Santa Fe, New Mexico has been going strong. Beth, a California native, moved to Santa Fe back in 1978. In ’89 she started working as manager of Zia Diner (“I was totally under-qualified for the job”), She’s been there ever since and now owns it. If she looks familiar you may have caught her on a segment of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives when Guy Fieri drove into town (Ian was one of the customers in that segment!).

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What’s the secret to Zia Diner’s success? “We’ve always considered ourselves a very local restaurant. From the start we wanted to re-create the feel of a ‘50’s diner, somewhere you could hang out and get great food.”

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The menu is classic diner in the best sense of the word – comfort food like Burgers made from New Mexico grass-fed all natural chuck, Hot roast turkey plate with all the trimmings and a dessert menu with waist-expanding treats like Black midnight cake, Brownie sundaes and homemade pies that will knock your socks off. “I love all kinds of cooking by my first love is baking,” Beth says.

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You’ll also find some dishes definitely not found on most diner menus like Pecan baked Idaho ruby trout with citrus parsley butter and Organic curried coconut mussels.

So what’s changed in the past 25+ years? “People want to know a lot more about where their food comes from. So we’re very particular about where we source our ingredients.” She’s proud that Zia serves grass-fed, additive-free beef, free-range and additive-free chicken and eggs, and local, organic, fair-trade Agapao Coffee. “People want to know. If I say a dessert is gluten-free, they want to know what kind of flour I’m using. They’re very aware.”

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Another thing that’s changed is that Zia uses a lot more chile. “When I started we had about three dishes on the menu with chile, including our Meatloaf with green chile and pine nuts which is still on the menu. Now we use chile in a lot more dishes like their super popular Corn, green chile and asiago pie.” Their red and green chile is so popular that they make it in 4 and 5-gallon batches. ‘I think our chile is as good or better than any other place in town.”

What’s next for Zia Diner? They’ve now running a successful catering business and added on a pastry shop as well. So stay tuned for the next 25 years!

Beth shared a favorite bar-food treat at Zia Diner, their Zia Chipotle Popcorn. Kinda sweet, kinda spicy, kinda addictive.

YUMMY SPECIAL OFFER

And kinda tastes even better when you get 25% off on Los Chileros popcorn, Cayenne, and Chipotle chile to make whipping up a batch even easier. But don’t hang around – we’re only being generous until Thursday, December 20th at midnight MST.

Zia Chipotle Popcorn

3.5 oz. Popcorn kernels
1 cup Roasted peanuts

Pop corn kernels in batches on stove or in microwave. Remove any burned or unpopped kernels. Place in large bowl with peanuts and mix.

1 ½ sticks Butter (12 Tbsp)
¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. Corn syrup
¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. Brown sugar
½ tsp. Kosher salt
¼ tsp. Cayenne (or Red chile powder)
½ tsp. Chipotle powder
¼ tsp. Baking soda

Mix all ingredients, except baking soda, together in a pan over low heat until melted. Bring to a boil and after 30 seconds remove from heat. Stir in the baking soda. Mixture will bubble. Stir into popcorn and nut mixture thoroughly. Divide mixture onto 2 large sheet pans lined with parchment.

Bake in low 250 degree oven for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and allow to cool, then break into pieces.

Store in airtight container.

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