The Antique Corral’s lunch counter evokes nostalgia for a time we don’t remember

by Nick Gonzales

DGO would like to note that we reviewed the Antique Corral before news broke of its sale of reproductions of segregation-era racist signs and other disturbing memorabilia.I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t spend much time antiquing. When it comes to furniture and the like, you’re more likely to find me online or at the nearest IKEA.

I’d probably spend a lot more time in antique stores if they all had fully-functional diners inside, though — like the Antique Corral just south of Cortez on U.S. Highway 491.

The Antique Corral, as a whole, is a massive warehouse full of all sorts of items from distant to very recent past, including kitchenware, furniture, Western clothing and hats, toys, lawn ornamentation, and just about anything you could possibly want sculpted out of iron. The most interesting part of the store, though, is on your immediate right as you walk in the door: the lunch counter of a 1950s-style diner.

The menu is surprisingly extensive for an eatery that just makes up one corner of a much larger store. In addition to burgers, sandwiches, dogs, and Frito pies, there is also a variety of ice cream dishes.

I figured I’d try to order as iconic of a mid-century Southwestern burger-joint meal as possible: a green chile cheeseburger with fries and a butterscotch shake. (I almost asked for a cherry phosphate, which sounds pretty classic, but I’m less than 100 years old and have no idea what that is, and I was too embarrassed to ask.)

There’s not much that can be said about the food itself. It was good, but it won’t blow your mind. It did strike me as very authentic, though. For instance, I watched the cook-slash-server place our hamburger buns in a conveyor toaster, which is something I don’t see everyday and seems appropriate for the time period. (Again, no clue — never went to a diner in the real 1950s.) Similarly, all of the glassware for the ice cream seemed period specific.

The burger was better than average, as were the crinkle cut fries — which there were a lot of. And the shake hit the spot. My dining companion — who also ordered a green chile cheeseburger — and I both left feeling full and satisfied.

But more than anything, I think we were struck by a sense of false nostalgia, memories from a time neither of us experienced. This, I suppose, is the entire point of antiquing, so the corral accomplished that well.

Nick Gonzales

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