For the past week or so, the premiere country music station in Sacramento, call letters, KNTY, better known as The Wolf, had been asking listeners to vote on their favorite café in the Sacramento suburb of Citrus Heights, CA. The voting was not about a fancy, coat-and-tie-required restaurant, but a family-style café, were real people, attired in their everyday dress could come, relax, and enjoy a delicious meal in a family-friendly atmosphere. Now all members of The Sacramento Breakfast Club are country music fans, and we have a tendency to tune in to The Wolf on the way home from work, as we enjoy the music they play, and we especially enjoy their morning hosts, Dave and Susan. When they announced that they were asking listeners to vote for their favorite café in Citrus Heights, one restaurant immediately popped into our minds: Charlie's Café. Casting your vote for your favorite restaurant can be challenging when you're calling a top-rated radio station in a major market, but for Charlie's, we were up to the challenge, despite holding the phone to our ears and listening to endless ringing cycles. But it was worth the hassle, as Charlie's Café is definitely the best restaurant that we've ever had the pleasure to visit in Citrus Heights.
Photo: Charlie's received the award for being the number one cafe in Citrus Heights, and the place is decorated to celebrate the occasion. Note the full parking lot and the colorful radio station van, to the left of the photo.
If you're a regular visitor to our web pages, you now doubt have noticed that we've paid several previous visits to Charlie's over the last year or so. There are many reasons, such as some of the best breakfast entrées that we've ever eaten, huge portions, a comfortable atmosphere, reasonable prices, and perhaps most importantly, some of the friendliest people that you'll ever meet. We're regulars, and the staff knows us be name, and we know them by name, which enhances the whole dining experience.
Photo: The entrance to Charlie's is mobbed. That's my 1996 Toyota Camry, parked in the foreground; somehow I received rock star parking. I guess it was my lucky day.
Initially, for the Breakfast Club meeting on Friday, April 11, 2008, we hadn't planned on dining at Charlie's, as we'd just dined there a few weeks before. However, when The Wolf announced that Charlie's Café had been voted as the number 1 restaurant in Citrus Heights, and morning hosts Dave Kelly and Susan Brown planned to broadcast live on that Friday morning, from the dining room of Charlie's, how could we resist another breakfast meeting at Charlie's Café?
Photo: Charlie's breakfast counter is packed... thanks to the live radio broadcast. The kitchen can be clearly seen to the right of the photo, as cook signals another order, ready for the wait staff to serve to hungry diners. The lovely lady to the extreme left of the photo really didn't want her photo taken; I explained to her that it was just "collateral damage..."
We could tell things were very different as we pulled into the parking lot, as the whole place was festively decorated with colorful balloons, the parking lot was jam-packed with cars, a radio station van was parked outside, and there was a huge banner of the roof of the restaurant that read: "Charlie's Cafe thanks 101.9 Country Dave, Susan, Catfish & Gang #1 Cafe in Citrus Heights." The live radio broadcast was really packin' in the clients, as we'd never seen such a crowd at the restaurant, during our previous visits. As I was walking into the restaurant, I couldn't help but to read the special of the day that was written on a white board: Pork chile verde omelet, and to notice the notation, thanking The Wolf and it's listeners for voting them number one in Citrus Heights.
Photo: Dave Kelly and Susan Brown, from Sacramento radio station 101.9 The Wolf, conduct a live broadcast, from Charlie's dining room, as I capture the moment with my digital camera.
The dining room was packed with festive diners, but Mark and David had arrived early, and reserved a table for us in the center of the dining room, seating for our group of eight. The Wolf's live broadcast really brought in the diners, and the restaurant had about three times the patrons that we were accustomed to, and nearly every booth and table was taken. We noticed that as soon as a party would leave, either Cheryl, Melissa or Brenda would immediately bus the table, and the departing party would be immediately be replaced by new arrivals. At the front of the dining room, The Wolf had set up a table, where hosts Dave, Susan, and engineer James sat, complete with all of the hardware necessary to conduct a live, remote broadcast on a top-rated country music radio station.
Photo: Your author, Eric Rench, makes a fool of himself, live, on-the-air, as he's interviewed by Dave, about my opinions about my employer, and more importantly, breakfast at Charlie's.
After friendly waitress Brenda took our orders, I left the gang and headed over to the table where the radio hosts were placed, only a couple of tables away. The Wolf's format is modern country music, with a few oldie's mixed in, so that means they play music in blocks of 3 to 5 songs, depending on the time of day, and the commercial load of the hour. Translated into plain English, that means the hosts had plenty of time, between live work on the air, to chit-chat with the friendly staff at Charlie's, and the customers. Not being the shy type, I had to introduce myself to Dave and Susan, and tell them a little bit about our club, where we work, what we do, and what we stand for. I felt compelled to introduce all 8 of us as proud workers from the at&t beehive, and the fact that all of us had worked all night, and were in the process of a good-o'l-boys' meeting, with only one girl, after work. Day shift folks go to a bar, and night shift folks go have breakfast together... Naturally, I let them know that we're all fans of country music, and loyal listeners of their radio station. Somehow, I sneaked in the fact that I had been a disc jockey (a term that's now quite passé) during the 1970's, and for that, I was rewarded with having my photo taken with charming Susan, and a live, on-the-air interview with Dave, where I got to make a fool of myself in front of a live radio audience. Gee, I haven't been on commercial radio since 1981! Charlie's Café is fun and friendly place to eat any day, but when you combine a almost-full house, fun and friendly radio hosts, and a live, on-the-air broadcast, it adds a whole different dimension to the listener-voted, best café in Citrus Heights.
Photo: Brenda serves Weldon his breakfast, as he looks on in breakfast nirvana.
We're accustomed to fast and friendly service at Charlie's, and due to the larger-than-normal crowd, and only four staff members waiting tables, we figured that our coffee cups would run dry, and our meals would take forever to arrive. Naught! The wait staff worked at warp-speed, and service was top-notch, as usual, although the banter was cut a little shorter than usual, which is understandable, as the place was packed. Thanks to Brenda, Cheryl and Melissa, our coffee cups never ran dry, and our delicious meal were delivered in a timely manner. Charlie's staff has the unique ability to chat while they work, and no matter what the situation, they make you feel welcome, and like you're a member of their family. You can't put a price on that kind of atmosphere!
Photo: Charlie attempts to serve Mark his breakfast, but Mark is too distracted by his paper, which occupies the place on the table where is breakfast plate should reside, and the fact that he and Dan are having a spirited conversation. At the end of the table, Bruce enjoys his breakfast, and just enjoys the show.
As I mentioned before, I ordered the special, advertised on the white board at the entrance of the restaurant, of a pork chile verde omelet, featuring home style potatoes, with a flour tortilla on the side. I elected to pass on the flour tortilla, as I just can't seem to enjoy a breakfast without a plate of biscuits and gravy on the side. The chile verde omelet isn't on the menu, as it's served only occasionally, but when it is offered, I can rarely pass it by, as the breakfast is good as it gets. What makes a chile verde omelet at Charlie's? Three eggs, shredded cheese, a huge amount of tender, pork cubes, and a generous portions of chile verde sauce, that's green sauce, for those of you who don't speak at least a touch of Spanish. You get your choice of home style potatoes or hash browns, I prefer home style potatoes, with slices of onion and pepper added. A flour tortilla is included, but I opted for the optional side dish of biscuits and gravy, for an additional price.
Photo: Friendly Melissa, to the left of the photo, kept our coffee cups full, as the members of our club, to the right, enjoy their breakfasts. Melissa remarked to me that she was happy that today, she had applied makeup, but a woman as beautiful as Melissa never needs makeup, as she's naturally beautiful, both in looks and personality.
My meal arrived in a timely manner, hot and fresh, directly from the kitchen. Charlie's doesn't employ those infrared heat lamps, like many of the national chain restaurants do, as their meals arrive the way a breakfast is supposed to arrive: Hot and fresh, with an attractive presentation. The omelet was cooked to perfection, as the eggs were perfectly done, the cheese was melted, but not gooey, and the cubes of pork were juicy, succulent and tender. This omelet is made to order for meat lovers, as it contains so many cubes of pork, that some of them actually spill out of the omelet onto the plate. The omelet contains chile verde sauce which is flavorful and delicious, and packs a little "kick," but not enough to harm even the most delicate tongue. The chile verde sauce is totally gringo-friendly. The home style potatoes were cooked crispy, golden-brown on the outside, yet tender and fluffy inside, just the way that I like 'em. As per my request, diced onions and peppers were cooked to perfection, cooked neither slimy-soft, or crunchy-hard. As an aside, the potatoes had no added salt, which is a boon to a guy like me, who has to keep an eagle-eye on his blood pressure. I passed on the included four tortilla, and ordered the optional, at extra cost biscuits and gravy, but true to previous dining experiences that I've enjoyed at Charlie's the biscuits, and in-house made sausage gravy were outstanding, and in my opinion, make up a de facto essential side dish any breakfast for any breakfast entrée.
Photo: Today's Sacramento Breakfast Club members, from left to right, in the background: Weldon Lee, David Demario, giving the "right-on" sign for Charlie's being the best cafe in Citrus Heights, and Jeff Brown. Foreground, left to right: Bruce Coulter, dressed in the blue shirt, Eric Rench, your grinning web author, Mark McIntire, Dan MacLeod, and Bev MacLeod.
All members of our club agree with The Wolf's listeners, that Charlie's is the best café in Citrus Heights, or perhaps anywhere in the greater Sacramento area. As we enjoy breakfast, members of our club tend to rib each other, and give each other a bad time; today I had the pleasure of sitting across the table from Weldon, one of our newer members, and today was his baptism at Charlie's... but for Weldon, it was not a problem, as he takes everything in stride. Now Weldon is a man who takes breakfast very seriously, like the rest of us do, but he has one small quirk: Ketchup. I sat across the table from him and watched him pile the ketchup on his home style potatoes, and then watch him squeeze more ketchup on them from the convenient squeeze bottle of ketchup placed on the table. Even during the years I spent with the Navy, I have never seen a guy so prolific with ketchup on breakfast potatoes. I think I'll call him the "Ketchup Man!" Well, in my humble opinion, to each his own, and whatever floats your boat is ok with me. Weldon, enjoy your ketchup!
Photo: Your web master hugs The Wolf's morning show co-host, charming Susan Brown. It's always an honor to have my photo taken with a lady, as graceful and talented as Susan is.
Photo: OK kids, here's a man-sized breakfast, to-die-for, only served at Charlie's Café: A Chile verde omelet, served with a side dish of in-house made biscuits and gravy, which kept me full for the rest of the day.
Dining at Charlie's Café is always wonderful experience, but today, due to the festive crowd and the live radio broadcast, it was extra special, and a experience that I'll treasure for quite some time. I agree with The Wolf's listeners, that Charlie's Café is the best place to enjoy a casual meal in Citrus Heights, or anywhere in the greater Sacramento Area. Charlie's combines everything that you can hope for in a delightful breakfast experience: Delicious food, huge portions, reasonable prices, comfortable dining, attractive presentation, fast, efficient service, provided by some of the most friendly and wonderful people that you'll ever meet. No wonder Charlie's has become the favorite, and de facto standard of the Sacramento Breakfast Club, as the restaurant exceeds every criteria that we hold dear in order to enjoy a delicious breakfast.
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