By David McGlothlin
Chaffin’s Family Restaurant doesn’t look like much from the outside, or the inside for that matter. It looks like a diner and, like any diner, the food is what counts..It’s a classic 70’s-style American restaurant that’s been serving favorites like chicken fried steak, giant omelets, biscuits and gravy, simple breakfast and of course hot coffee to locals since 1974.
The breakfast menu offers a plethora of options from the basic bacon, egg and potatoes breakfast to a lox bagel or eggs Benedict. Of course southwestern favorites like huevos rancheros and chorizo dishes are also included as well as a variety of omelets and breakfast burritos.
Wait times for seating and orders depend on the size of the crowd but the staff does an efficient job turning tables, running food and ringing checks. During the breakfast rush customers may be asked to wait up to 20-minutes for a seat. Obviously the patrons think it’s worth it, else there wouldn’t be a wait. A party of four or more may wait up to 30 minutes for all their food during the breakfast rush.
The front room operates like a coffee shop with a quick-serving breakfast bar and 11 boothsl. A back room features additional seating for 75 to 100, which is why the parking lot can look full, but an open table or two usually awaits inside.
For costumers in a rush, the bar offers a quick bite for parties of one or two persons who want to eat and dash. The Country Breakfast took less than five minutes to deliver, twice as long to eat and less than half to pay.
Service is great. A platoon of waitresses constantly rotates throughout the restaurant, refilling water and coffees while smiling and chatting it up with regulars.
The food is, as noted, worth a wait. Syrupy breakfast classics like thick-cut French toast, pancakes and Belgium waffles are always a good choice, quick to make, filling and cheap. The omelet list is equally hearty and cheap with popular choices like the Denver omelet, avocado, bacon and cheese omelet, and the house omelet filled with veggies, meats, and topped with country gravy. Egg whites can be substituted in any omelet. The Spinfeta omelet is served with diced tomatoes, spinach and a generous portion of crumbled feta cheese on top.
The smell of bacon sizzling on the griddle and sight of costumers sipping their steaming hot coffees while reading the morning paper is nostalgic for me.
Chaffin’s reminds me of a diner I went to growing up in Phoenix — Mel’s Diner, most recognized as a link to the ‘70s TV show called “Alice,” which was set there.
My teammates and I would eat at Mel’s every Saturday after early morning football practice. We blended right in despite smelling like sweat, being covered in mud and grass stains. Of course, we were also very hungry. Much like Chaffin’s, Mel’s usually had a herd of cars parked outside.
My favorite item on Chaffin’s menu lately is the Mexican omelet — a cheesy culmination of spicy pork chorizo, green chilies, and more cheddar cheese. I substitute the choice of toast or English muffin for a flour tortilla and make my own little breakfast burritos with the omelet and country potatoes.
Chaffin’s offers an ideal spot for a quick, friendly, simple, straightforward breakfast and lunch any day of the week, and it’s a local destination for just that. Don’t act surprised if you see the mayor stop in, or any of the University of Arizona athletic teams chowing down.
Chaffin’s Family Restaurant | American cuisine | Monday to Sunday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. | 902 E. Broadway Blvd. Tucson, Ariz. 85719 | 520-882-7707