March 16, 2022 - 3:15 pm
For 30 years, Cindy Ford and her crew at Southwest Diner have been dishing up hearty fare sure to satisfy nearly any palate. The Boulder City restaurant’s menu features everything from breakfast classics to all-American burgers to Mexican dishes. Just be sure to leave room for pie — one of its specialties.
Keeping its steady stream of locals and tourists happy and well-fed isn’t always easy, but Ford said she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love it,” she said.
The majority of the recipes she uses come from her family. She said the cucumber salad was her grandmother’s recipe and the recipe for the chile relleno casserole came from her stepmother.
Among the restaurant’s most popular dishes are the chile relleno casserole, chicken fried steak and chicken Caesar salad. She said her other Mexican dishes also sell well.
Southwest Diner is known for its banana bread and, of course, its pies.
All of the fruit pie recipes came from her family. They were on the menu originally and the cream pies were added later.
“We clear the pie case every day,” she said.
That equates to between 15 and 20 pies daily.
For the holidays, Ford, her baker John Snodgrass and staff, bake hundreds of pies for community residents. Last year, they made 558 for Thanksgiving and about 100 for Christmas, often working around the clock.
“With as hectic and stressful as it can be, I just try to be as calm and focused as I can and push through many hours,” Snodgrass said. “But in the end it is all worth it.”
Snodgrass, who has been baking for Southwest Diner for three years, said he began baking with his mother when he was 10.
“She taught me how to make cookies, pies, cakes, fudge, etc. We always love to bake for friends and family around the holidays and it became something I loved and wanted to do.”
He said hearing about how much customers enjoy his baked goods is one of the most satisfying parts of his job. As he starts his work in the kitchen in the early morning hours, he often doesn’t get the chance to see people eating the pies, cakes and breads he makes.
Additionally, he said he enjoys the opportunity to get creative in the kitchen and that making pies, because there are so many varieties, is his favorite thing to bake.
“I do like to cook in my spare time, but my passion is baking,” he said.
Opening a restaurant was not Ford’s original plan when she moved to Boulder City from California. She said when she bought the original restaurant property, she leased it out to someone else but they left, leaving her with an empty restaurant.
Since she had owned a restaurant in California before moving to Nevada she thought she could do it again — despite having a young daughter and 6-month-old son.
“I thought I could just keep him in a playpen,” she said.
Originally called Southwest Frosty, the eatery offered fast food. Ford, however, wanted to offer restaurant food served fast.
After several other fast food establishments opened in town, she was able to expand and offer inside dining, which allowed her to add breakfast and rename the restaurant to Southwest Diner.
About 15 years ago she moved the diner to its current location at 761 Nevada Way.
Ford said the past three years have been the hardest in her life. After starting to bounce back from the opening of Interstate 11, the pandemic hit, forcing her to close the indoor dining room.
As business slowly returned to normal, she was able to add a side patio for additional outdoor dining. It also offers a place for larger groups, she said.
Currently, Ford has 34 employees.
Ford said she has no plans to retire. Her aunt, who just celebrated her 92nd birthday, owned and operated her own restaurant until two years ago. It was the first place Ford worked.
For their 30th anniversary, Southwest Diner is offering a hamburger and fries at $2.95 — the price it was when they opened — today through Sunday, along with other specials to mark St. Patrick’s Day. Those dining at the restaurant today also will get a free piece of chocolate mint cake.
Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.