Roxane and Marla Valenzuela offer a varied menu for breakfast and lunch at the Sky Island Diner in Sonoita. Photo by Heather Dodge

Keith Hensley had long had his eye on the empty gas station at 3270 Hwy 82 in Sonoita. By the time he acquired the property, where various ventures had come and gone, he knew exactly what to make of it – a comfortable, unpretentious place where the food is good and familiar, easy on the wallet, and where you can stay as long as you like, shooting the breeze over a mug of coffee and getting to know your neighbors.

The day I showed up, Sky Island Diner was bustling, but Roxann and Marla quickly turned out orders, including my stack of Howdy M’am pancakes, light and fluffy as can be. Roxann and Marla Valenzuela are sisters who’ve worked, cooked and managed diners together for decades.

They run Sky Island Diner smoothly and deftly, serving breakfast and lunch throughout the day. From chorizo & eggs, huevos rancheros and omelets to tacos, burritos, chimichangas, burgers and melts, the taste range is wide and accentuated by the salsa bar. Look for their homemade soups and menudo on the whiteboard menu soon.

I poked my head into an adjacent room where a group of men were conversing. “That’s the Romeo Room – Retired Old Men Eating Out,” Keith said with a laugh. “They’re a group of local pals who come here every Wednesday. We’ve got regulars already and we’ve only been open since August. That’s a good sign. Must be doing something right. But that’s how I wanted this place to be – relaxed and comfortable.”

At the diner’s western side, construction of the Brew Pub is in progress. When considering what to make of the property, Keith also wanted a place to showcase home crafted beer, his longtime hobby. The Sky Island Diner’s Brew Pub with wood-fired pizzas is scheduled to open by Thanksgiving.

Sky Island Diner is open 7 am – 3 pm Monday – Friday, 8 am – 3 pm, Saturday & Sunday