Killer city skyline view, quality Ranch Foods Direct meat, bangin' biscuits and gravy, above-average green chili, hearty soup and really good pies: Susie's Westside Cafe is largely diner fare with flair.
Turning two this December, the hilltop hangover helper belongs to Susan McGregor, former co-owner of My Sister's Kitchen with her sister Jill Bennett (who sold, but recently bought back, that Knob Hill eatery). With a good deal of money sunk into what used to be a framing shop, Susie's sports a high A-frame ceiling, thick wooden-bench-seated booths, Formica tables and dark carpet that, along with some modest decoration, give it a cozy somewhere-in-Montana feel. But that commanding view over Gold Hill Mesa and downtown sets patrons squarely back home.
As does the heavy, starchy, sugary and fatty (in all the right ways) comfort food. It's all made in-house in the open kitchen, whose constant griddle-hiss acts as culinary music to the ears of the hungry.
From the wide breakfast selection, we opted first for the recommended biscuits and gravy, customized with two eggs, hash browns and sausage ($8.95). The biscuits rightfully starred, super-soft and flavorful under a great, rich, peppery gravy. The eggs and potatoes were standard, though the latter included both underdone and overdone segments. The sausage, too, was slightly burned around the edges and therefore a little tougher than need be.
Next up, Susie's Huevos Rancheros ($7.75) offered beef or sausage stuffed in a flour tortilla under ample green chili and shredded cheese, with herb-flecked home fries in the supporting role. The thick chili slowly builds to a great heat level that never kills flavor — proper for the masses. The basic tortilla requires a knife to saw through, but it allowed our ground beef to sop up the chili. On the whole, it's good diner grub, but not as memorable as some local Mexican outfits' versions, or my benchmark huevos plate at Adam's Mountain Café.
If you're there at lunch (though breakfast is served all day), try the chili on the green chili burger with cheese ($7.95), basically a slopper minus the fries and raw onion. The bun turns delightfully soggy under the heavy chili, and the kitchen can nail a medium rare. The eat-it-by-fork theme continues with the open-faced hot turkey sandwich ($7.95), which comes with perfectly serviceable creamy mashed potatoes and gravy over thick, moist turkey. The only weak link: a lame frozen vegetable medley.
Also lame is the Farmer Brothers coffee, which lacks character and finish. We have a slew of more worthy local roasters, and good diner fare deserves better coffee. Especially with excellent pie ($2.75).
Susie's blueberry cream pie is a rock star, with competent crust resting under a thin cheesecake-like layer, a thick jelly-like compote and a whipped cream finish. The heavier, dense peanut butter pie delivers a satisfying PB punch under even more whipped cream; were the Hershey's garnish subbed out for a house-made chocolate sauce, it'd be a real contender. One last whipped cream vehicle: Our raisin rice pudding (same price), served in a parfait glass, was too heavy on the nutmeg and otherwise a bit loose and bland, like oatmeal made with water instead of milk.
So obviously Susie's isn't without stumbles between the standouts, but it's nonetheless a worthwhile stop for diner fare. If any bites fail to soothe, the view will.