#33: Denny’s Cafe

For lunch today I made my second attempt at covering Denny’s Cafe for the blog.  The first time was successful, in hindsight, but at the time I felt I didn’t have enough for a full post.  This little diner is located on the north end of Vernon St. in-between Lincoln and Folsom.  They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner (though they close at 2pm on Sunday).  You can get typical American diner cuisine as well as Chinese dishes.

When I arrived for my first visit, a month and a half ago, it was a quiet Sunday and there was just one other customer.  He was sitting in the front corner reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee.  I thought he worked there, since the table was more of a kitchen table you’d find in somebody’s home and the TV antenna was sitting on it, but eventually he got up, paid and left.  I was left with the cook and the waitress who I’m guessing are the owners.

The interior is definitely on the old and worn side.  I wouldn’t say gross, but it’s certainly not clean.  It’s the type of clean where you only wipe down the parts that people can easily see.  I can imagine a lot of grime hiding in the corners here.  An electrical outlet in the corner is bursting with wires that take off in a few directions to power various appliances and lights in a way that doesn’t look like it would pass a fire marshall’s inspection.  The area behind the counter near the register is PACKED with personal and decorative items.

With the impression I had built based on these observations, I figured the service and/or food must be pretty great.  The waitress was friendly enough, but the service wasn’t anything beyond the minimum needed to take my order and serve me food.  I ordered the lunch combo of sweet & sour pork which comes with fried rice.  After putting in the order with the cook she returned to bring my drink, a can of Dr Pepper, with a cup of ice.  Normally when I’m given a cup of ice with a can of soda I don’t use it, because I don’t like it watered down even a little bit.  In this case the can was so filthy that even after I wiped the top down with my napkin I didn’t want to drink out of it.  I’ve also never seen this variety of Dr Pepper can with a yellow bar code before.  I’m not really sure I want to know where it came from, or where it’s been sitting and for who knows how long.  It did taste fine though, so there’s that.

Note: This was AFTER I wiped it down as much as I could

When my plate arrived it was steaming like crazy.  The large pieces of deep fried pork were covered with and sitting in a small lake of very hot and bright red sweet & sour sauce.  The fried rice looked more like brown rice.  I was expecting some veggies and egg mixed in but it was just steamed rice that was darkened up on the grill.  It had virtually nothing to it and I had to resort to copious amounts of soy sauce to make it edible.  The pork definitely had some flavor, just not what I had in mind when I ordered it.  The sauce wasn’t sweet at all, just sour.  Each piece was more batter than pork, and what pork was there did not taste good at all and was chewy.  A reviewer on Yelp described the meat in his meal as tasting like it was spoiled, and I think I would agree.  It was pretty nasty.

I didn’t want to write a post based solely on that experience in case it was a freak one-time thing (I hadn’t read other reviews yet), which is why I returned again today to try something off the American food side of the menu.  I went the relatively safe route and ordered the bacon burger plus cheese and fries. This time with my Dr Pepper (which was just as dirty as the first time if not dirtier) she brought a bottle of ketchup and 3 packets of mustard.  Not long after, my burger arrived.  The fries looked pretty good, and they were decent.  They were very crispy, just the way I like fries.  They did need ketchup though.  The burger was another story.  The bacon looked like it was going to be good, it was crispy and hot.  The burger patty was thin and was clearly the frozen variety.  The most disappointing part of this first impression was the american single that (barely) passed as the cheese.  The burger was hot, and it wasn’t particularly juicy or dry, but taste-wise it was the equivalent of licking a grill.

Unfortunately there just isn’t anything positive to say about Denny’s Cafe, even after giving it a second chance.  I nearly went with a 1 of 5, but even that’s too generous.  Go ahead and check out some (actually all) of the reviews on Yelp, I’m a little surprised they’re still in business.  Perhaps they do breakfast right, but I don’t really care to find out anymore.

(Scanned) Menu: Click Here


#19: Chubby’s Diner

Oh Chubby’s…  I live right by you and yet I never stop in.  I’m not entirely sure why that is.  Perhaps because I have an expectation of disappointment when it comes to these greasy diner type places.  It probably unfairly comes from many post-midnight visits to Mel’s in my youth that left me wondering why we thought it was a good idea to go there in the first place.  It’s time to give you a chance.

Chubby’s Diner is practically the only place to get a bite to eat in Roseville Square these days since the Mr. Pickles went out of business (I tried to give them my money, but they were always closed by the time I got home from work).  I think the Sunflower Farmers Market has a deli or something inside because they have tables out front.  Chubby’s has that 1955 Hill Valley vibe going on inside, I wonder if our mayor used to mop their floors back in the day.  They have stool seating around the counter and unsurprisingly cramped booths against the windows.

The menu was a lot more expansive than I had anticipated.  I figured it would be some basic breakfast and lunch things but they have quite a selection for all three meals of the day (of course I completely forgot to write down some of these things, I just remember that it spanned about 4 pages and had me trying to decide on something for a while).  One thing I thought was a little funny is, sprinkled throughout the menu, they have photos of the restaurant itself in it’s present form, and that there were duplicates here and there.

Sitting with my parents (who come here almost every weekend for breakfast it seems), I ordered a Dr. Pepper and sipped on that while going over the menu.  I narrowed it down to a burger after deciding it was too late to have breakfast [they serve it all day, but it was something like noon and it just didn’t feel right anymore 😉 ].  During this time the manager (possibly the owner as well?), Jason, came by to chat with my parents and meet me (apparently I was considered somewhat of a myth since no one had ever seen me there).  He’s a super nice and talkative guy.  I was partially distracted by going over the menu, but I remember him rattling off a long list of bread options for sandwiches, they seem to have a lot.

I realized something when I settled on the Be-Bopper Bacon American Cheese Burger w/ fries, I was in a diner.  A malt needs to be ordered.  I know, I already had a soda at this point, but this is not up for debate.  Let me tell you, It was amazing.  Jason boasted about the maltiness of his malts and said it’s how he likes them.

Of course you get the tall glass and the remaining bit in the malt cup.  I finished the glass there and Jason happily poured the rest into a to-go cup for me when I left.  My burger showed up just after the malt.  The bun looked enormous, but it was really soft and delicious.  The thing oozed mayo, not that that’s always a bad thing.  Every time I was sure the last pocket of mayo had escaped out the back of the burger onto my plate (or forward into my beard, many napkins lost their lives during this meal) more just kept coming.  The bacon was well prepared and had a slight crisp.  It kind of carried the burger, the patty itself was ok.  The fries were pretty bland.  Even with ketchup I think I only ate about half of them.  I would definitely opt for the seasoned fries upgrade next time.  The burger + malt combo is a filling one.  I wasn’t hungry for the next 7 hours!  Next time I’m definitely going to try their breakfast out.

So the malt was great, the burger was decent and the fries disappointing.  The big thing about Chubby’s I think is the excellent service.  I’m sure it’s a bit different since I was sitting with my parents who are regulars and are on a first name basis with the manager, but he seemed to be chatting it up with everyone in the restaurant and was generally a cool guy.  He obviously cares about keeping his customers happy because I overheard more than one conversation where he offered the customer basically anything they wanted regardless of what was written on the menu.  They are super flexible.  That’s Chubby’s strength from what I could tell.  Come here a few times and figure out what general things you like, then optimize them.  Jason will certainly help recommend how to customize them with substitutions/additions.

If I had the same food and experienced Mel’s-like service I would probably give this place 2-3 out of 5, but there’s something about a crew/management when they obviously care a great deal about their customers that takes a restaurant to another level.  (Sizzle Mongolian BBQ in Rocklin is one of these places, and their food is amazing on it’s own)  Great and accommodating service bumps it up to 4.  I’m looking forward to breakfast.  Maybe I’ll do a little follow-up when I eventually come back for it.