The members of the Sacramento Breakfast Club are always on the lookout for a new restaurant to visit, and when it was charter member Brad's turn to pick, he decided to steer us in the direction of Oak Tree Diner, as he and his wife had enjoyed a wonderful breakfast a few months prior to today's visit. He assured us that the restaurant met the club's criteria, so since it was his turn to pick the restaurant (and pay for the meal... yes!) the rest of us readily agreed to his choice. Since the aforementioned criteria are core values of our organization, I'll list a few of them for you:
* Locally owned and operated
Oak Tree Diner meets all of the above criteria, and a whole lot more!
Photo: Here it is, tucked into the second tier of Rio Linda's only shopping center. That's my 1996 Toyota Camry to the extreme left of the photo, missing the "ry" on the brand name, under the Toyota logo.
Just where is Rio Linda, you ask? It's an unincorporated community, a little to the northwest of Sacramento, so its fair game for our club. If you listen to the Rush Limbaugh show, you've probably heard him poke fun at Rio Linda, which is a little unfair, as Rio Linda is really a nice place to live, as its very rural, with gently rolling hills, and lots of big oak trees, which grow rampant in the Sacramento Valley. Hence the name of the Oak Tree Diner, as there are many oak trees in the vicinity of the restaurant, an Rio Linda in general. The restaurant is located in a small, third-rate shopping center, just to the north of downtown (if you could call it that) Rio Linda, in a rather picturesque setting. Since this was my first visit to the restaurant, I had a little trouble finding it, but after surmising that it should be located in the shopping center, I just drove in and immediately found the place. Parking is not a problem, even if you're towing a 5th wheel, or driving a big rig.
Photo: The dining room is packed with friendly folks. Note the team pennants and hot rod photos to the left, while the right wall features N.F.L. teams' headgear and pennants, grouped by division, which lends class to this family-friendly restaurant.
The first thing that you notice when you enter Oak Tree Diner is that the restaurant is quite long and fairly narrow. After you've sat yourself at a table, (no formal seating here...) you'll notice on the wall to your right are sports pennants, logos, and photos of souped-up motorcycles, choppers and hot rods. Hmmmmm... To your left, above the windows are groupings of N.F.L. team pennants and downsized helmets, grouped by conference and division. In the rear of the restaurant, above the small breakfast counter and the kitchen is a shelf lined with stuffed teddy bears, which is quite a contrast to the "manly" decor that lines the long walls. The decor could be described merely as comfortable, unpretentious, "homey," and very much in keeping with the spirit of Rio Linda. The patrons? All locals, all regulars, all friendly, and everybody knows everybody else. Just the sort of place the Sacramento Breakfast Club loves!
Photo: Debbie urged me to take a photo of Oak Tree Diner's "oldest" customers, a group of friendly, local guys who frequent the restaurant on a very regular basis. These guys were tickled that I snapped their photo, and I left with a smile plastered across my face. Actually, the word "oldest" should be replaced with the word "loyal."
Immediately after we seated ourselves, our friendly waitress, Debbie, brought coffee, large glasses of ice water, and menus. Speaking of menus, don't look for dinner entrées, as Oak Tree Diner is open only for breakfast and lunch; however we later learned that they're open Thursday and Friday for dinner, but the lunch menu suffices for dinner, with the exception of a few specials that are posted on a white board just outside of the restaurant. The menu features the usual breakfast fare that we've come to expect, with incredibly low prices, and as we were later to find, gigantic portions. As Debbie was taking our orders, I introduced myself, and the members of our club, and I told briefed her on our mission, and why I was taking so many photos. She chuckled and mentioned "Why didn't you tell me sooner?" Naturally, I told her all about the Internet and this web site, and gave her the u.r.l. so she could review our handiwork. I learned from her that she's a long-term employee, having worked at Oak Tree for twenty years, and during the course of her employment that the restaurant has changed owners four times, and that the shopping center has changed hands four times. Since I'm a trivia buff, I found that information quite interesting.
Photo: Friendly waitress Debbie places my "Oak Tree Special" breakfast on the table, as Mark is preoccupied with morphing his biscuits and gravy into his "Meat Lover's Omelet" to create something that only a dedicated deer hunter would love to eat.
It was interesting to watch Debbie and the other waitresses mingle with the customers, as most are regulars and they know everybody by name. There's lots of friendly banter exchanged between the customers and the wait staff, even to the point where less-than-nice nicknames are exchanged. As I was taking photos, Debbie introduced me to a booth where five gentlemen were sitting, and introduced them to me as her "oldest" customers, which brought out a huge round of laughter from them. I remarked, "Don't you mean long term customers?" ... and she replied, "No, I mean oldest customers!" ... which brought out another round of laughter.
After a few photos, lots of conversation about hot rods, guns, deer hunting, and a few cups of coffee, or orders arrived. Each of us ordered a different item from the extensive menu; Debbie laughed that they were going to run out of gravy, we all ordered an entrée that featured gravy, and Brad, being the maverick that he is, ordered extra gravy for his hash browns. The food arrived perfectly cooked as ordered, warm from the kitchen (no heat lamps exist in Oak Tree,) arranged with skilful presentation, and the portions could be described as enormous. In my case, I ordered an "Oak Tree Special" which arrived on a large plate, and featured two eggs, two slices of bacon, two sausage links, homestyle potatoes, with a plate of biscuits and gravy on the side. I'm a real fan of homestyle potatoes, and I couldn't help but to notice that they were perfectly cooked to an almost golden brown, and included slices of bell pepper which I truly love, and had forgotten to ask for; did they read my mind or something? To complete the presentation, a sprig of parsley was placed on the potatoes, and a orange wedge adorned one side of the plate. I should add that the breakfast tasted even better than it looked!
Photo: Brad snapped the photo, so he's not included. September 19, 2008's breakfast club members include, from left to right, Brad Holther, who is behind the camera, Dan MacLeod, smiling, as always, Mark MacIntire, obscured behind Dan, Eric Rench, your author and web master, holding a mug of delicious coffee, and David DeMario, who is currently quite occupied in the business of breakfast. Brad, thanks for the photo!
Photo: Here's my "Oak Tree Special" breakfast. Note the beautiful presentation and the quantity of quality food. All of this for less than seven bucks! The food was actually better in my stomach than in this digital photograph.
Oak Tree Diner has it all, including:
* Delicious food
And a whole lot more...
If you're looking for an outstanding breakfast, that will give you a huge bang for your hard-earned dollar, look no further than Oak Tree Diner. You'll love the restaurant as much as we do!
Oak Tree Diner
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