Part diner, part dive bar, joints like Alley Cat simply don’t exist elsewhere in Southeast Asia. The fact that they celebrated their sixth anniversary last year is significant in a town where bars close quicker than a speeding motodop. It’s a cafe with character – and characters. Step forward owner Mark Eastty and lugubrious front man Dallas, responsible for the trademark Top Cat mural and Tex-Mex desert landscape. They give the venue a sense of drama and permanence. The diner booths are wonderfully flexible – the largest can accommodate 10, or two sprawled flat-out at quiet times.
Tex-Mex cuisine is characterised by its heavy use of melted cheese, meat (particularly beef), beans and spices. My pick would be to start with Nachos Grande, loaded with all the necessary fixings ($5). It's the tops! The Burrito Dinner ($4.25) is good, cheap and satisfying. Inevitably over the life of a café the quality of a kitchen varies, but the burgers presently served are first-rate. Full-flavoured juicy meat pat- ties and a decent bun are basic requirements that too often get overlooked, but here they come as standard. My burger, covered in excellent chilli and cheese, was a thing of exquisite sloppiness. You might hate yourself after cramming it into your face but, boy, is it worth it. The Texas Beef Chilli (served with Navajo Fried Bread or rice $4.50) is rich, spicy and good.
Of course, booze is as important as food. Let me recommend the potent frozen Midori Margaritas (glass $3.50 jug $12 – hell, just go for the jug: you’re certainly going to want another). Sure you might have to wait a few minutes for them, but the diverse rocky playlist – just loud enough for your mother to ask for it to be turned down – offers plenty of distraction. Zorok is priced at $1; beers start at $1.50. I’m informed by impeccable sources that the house wine ($2.75) is eminently sluggable.
On Friday nights, drinks are free when you roll a double with the die – as the management found to their cost recently, when a pair of snake-eyes se- cured me a large Jack D gratis. The weekend breakfast special of unlimited pancakes and ba- con and eggs will set you up for the entire week for just $4.
Alley Cat Cafe is on Street 19, near the junction of Street 178.
Alley Cat Cafe
Street 19 (near St. 178
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