Space Case: Welcome Diner

Nikki BuchananSeptember 26, 2019
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Photography by Angelina Aragon
Photography by Angelina Aragon

Artist and entrepreneur Sloane McFarland opened the original Welcome Diner in a renovated Valentine diner on Roosevelt Row in 2004, aspiring to mingle his interests in community development and the emerging farm-to-table movement. According to McFarland, Roosevelt Row was still “underground” and the neighborhood was “scary,” but the place took off, especially as the diner found its culinary sweet spot in 2013, offering a menu that was both Southern- and Southwestern-inflected. When McFarland couldn’t renegotiate a lease in 2017, he found a vacant spot on Pierce and 10th streets in the resurgent Garfield District and built a new WD from the ground up – with a little help from his many creative friends. “We took what we learned [from the original Welcome] and put it in the same format,” adding that, somewhere along the line, “you figure out what you want to say.”

1 “Dinerwood”

On the soffit above the open kitchen, a Dinerwood sign references a community film competition held every fall. Also displayed: pics of early or visiting chefs such as Payton Curry, Nobuo Fukuda and Matt Pool, not to mention McFarland’s grandmother, who lived in Garfield in the ’40s.

2 Welcome Diner Signage

A black felt board proclaiming “Glad You’re Here” also displays the diner’s commitment to local ingredients, listing farmers and purveyors such as McClendon’s Select, Noble Goodness, Schreiner’s Sausage, Hamilton Distillers, Peixoto Coffee and – local-est of all — Garfield Garden, a neighborhood urban farm.

3 white beams

McFarland and his architect friend Christoph Kaiser, who lives in Garfield, didn’t want to create another preserved-in-amber diner cliché, but something closer to an installation art piece. To “bring the future to it,” they chose high-beamed ceilings and skylights, creating an open, contemporary space with loads of natural light.

4 robin’s egg blue stools

Designer Tara Logsdon chose the same iconic robin’s egg blue associated with the original diner for the bar and bar stools, applying the cheery splashes of blue paint herself, then adding retro light fixtures. Directly opposite the bar is a takeout window to encourage neighborhood interaction.

5 Mural

Local artist John Haddock painted the mint green mural in the corner, paying homage to a few of the presidents who inspired the street names in the neighborhood, namely Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Pierce and James A. Garfield. There are also bits of memorabilia hanging on the mural, including a signed receipt from rapper J. Cole.

Welcome Diner

929 E. Pierce St., Phoenix

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