Dex’s Depot in Palmer Lake has evolved from a hot dog cart to a diner and now its latest incarnation as a full-service restaurant and bar.

As evident on the menu, the affinity for hot dogs, in various adaptations, remains. If it can be imagined as a hamburger topping, it’s also available on a wiener. For example, there’s the French onion ($11 for a burger; $9 for a hot dog). This features Swiss cheese and caramelized onions. It makes sense. Actually, all of the choices do: South of the border, Chicago style, chili cheese or pulled pork. Of course, there’s always the plain, unadorned option for either meat. Although $8 for a bare dog is steep.

Surprisingly, our server didn’t mention any of the possibilities as being among the most popular items. The Rueben, The Bruce Burger and Wyatt’s mac and cheese did make her list. Thus, we settled on the Rueben ($11), noting the corned beef is locally sourced from Sara’s Sausage in Palmer Lake. (We like that Dex’s supports a purveyor just down the road.)

It’s easy to see why this classic deli sandwich is a hit. The marbled rye held a generous amount of corned beef, sauerkraut and just the right amount of Russian dressing, aka Thousand Island. The only issue was the toasted bread had been set on the plate while still warm, so one side was not quite soggy, but close.

A sign near our table stated Dex’s homemade fries are the best. The claim is misleading: The crinkle-cut fries were not homemade; consequently, they weren’t the best.

All sandwiches come with a choice of sides; however, these are not listed on the menu. It wasn’t clear if they change, but the options on our visit, besides the fries, were sweet potato waffle fries, coleslaw, chips and baked beans ($3.75 each if ordering additionally).

The mac and cheese with pulled pork ($16) sounded intriguing enough, especially since several sandwiches, burgers, a few appetizers, some salads and most of the entrees have the option of adding the pork. This suggested it’s something worth sampling. It is.

A large bowl filled with creamy cheese-coated macaroni is topped with the smoky pulled pork. The meat is tender and complements the richness of the main course. This is a substantial serving that could easily appease two. The menu indicates the sauce is made with five cheeses, all creating a savory, comforting blend of flavors.

Plating may be something most take for granted except when done exceptionally well or poorly. The latter was our experience. There is a difference between a schmear and a spill. The former is intentional. Splatters are a lack of attention to detail. They need to be wiped from the plate before serving, but this didn’t happen. It was easy to see that the drops didn’t happen in transit from the kitchen to the table.

We saw a dessert served that looked a mess. It was called a pudding cake, which, if taken literally, was more pudding than cake given the free form shape. A meringue and whipped cream topping didn’t add any appeal. On the plus side, desserts are made in house. The menu includes bananas Foster, churros and a daily selection of pies and cakes.

The train theme is big here, including an overhead track with a two-car toy train wrapping around the main dining area. Our server was friendly, but she would have scored more points had she taken care of the food droplets on the plate.

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