Sacramento, the capital city of the state of California, is a medium-sized city, with a population hovering around the 500,000 mark, and city features countless restaurants that offer an outstanding breakfast at a modest price. OK, that's great for a start, but if you're a breakfast fanatic, like the members of The Sacramento Breakfast Club are, you want to start constructing roadblocks, to eliminate the lesser contenders. As fanatic members of The Sacramento Breakfast Club, we prefer a restaurant that A) Only serves breakfast and lunch, B) offers huge portions, C) features delicious food at reasonable prices, and very important, D) features friendly service and a family-like dining atmosphere. Oh yes, we prefer a restaurant that is owned and operated by local folks, and, very preferably, is a one-of-a-kind operation, which effectively limits our rendezvous to local operations. Restaurants that fit the aforementioned criteria are hard to find, but fellow Breakfast Club member Dan MacLeod, heard via word-of-mouth that Railroad Café offered the aforementioned amenities, friendly service and delicious food, so we were compelled to visit the restaurant, for another of our breakfast club adventures.
Photo: Here's a view of Railroad Café from Auburn Blvd, near the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.
Railroad Café definitely fits our criteria of locally-owned, one-of-a-kind operations, as it's owned and operated by Steve and Sherry Jones, a local couple, who live only three blocks away from the restaurant; they have a commute that most of us working folks would envy, and Railroad Café is an operation that has no duplicates. Sherry's sister Amelia is employed at the restaurant, as are other family members, on an as-needed basis.
OK, a little bit of history about Railroad Café... Sherry is very friendly and since I'd heard a little bit about the history of Railroad Café from my buddy Dan, I engaged her into a lengthy conversation about the place. Roll back the tape a couple of years ago.... Steve had a high-paying corporate job, and Sherry was a stay-at-home mom; which is all well and good. However Steve and Sherry had other ideas, since the kids were getting somewhat self-sufficient, Sherry was looking for a mountain to climb, and Steve was getting sick of the corporate run-around. So they decided to chuck all of the real-world stuff and open up a restaurant. As they lived in the area, they had noticed a defunct biker bar, that had a shady reputation, yet had a lot of potential, and they took a huge gamble and leased the building, and after 2-1/2 months of hard work it emerged from the ashes like a phoenix, as the Railroad Café. These folks are true entrepreneurs, who have a lot more courage than I do, when it comes to career-changing endeavors.
Photo: David and Dan are listening, as friendly Sherry relates her story of all the hard work that she and her family did to make this place a reality. This photo gives an idea of the spacious decor of the restaurant.
True to it's name, Railroad Café's decor reflects the railroad industry, as the walls sport framed photos and posters of contemporary railroadia, and memorabilia from bygone days. If you're a fan of model trains, particularly Lionel steam engines, you'll feel right at home, as there are plenty of them decorating the dining room, in keeping with the railroad theme. Probably the single fixture in the restaurant that grabs your attention is the beautifully restored breakfast bar, which used to be the bar where liquor and beer was served, back when the restaurant was a biker bar. Not to mention behind the bar there's a beautiful aquarium behind the bar stocked with colorful goldfish. The decor isn't fancy, but that's quite in keeping with the overall theme of the Railroad Café as nothing is fancy nor pretentious about the place, nor with the friendly folks who run the place.
Railroad Café is located on Auburn Blvd., next to the busy, double-tracked Union Pacific main line, so as you're visiting the restaurant, it is quite likely that you'll get to watch one of their freight trains rumble by. According to Sherry, many railroad employees are regular customers...
Photo: Steve Jones hard at work at the griddle, in the kitchen.
After you've sat down at a table and ooohed and aaawed over the bar and the railroad decor, you'll be greeted by one of the friendliest person you'll ever meet, and that's Sherry Jones. Notice that I didn't describe her as a "waitress," although she does fulfill that role; Sherry is a co-owner of the business, along with her husband Steve, who keeps himself busy in the kitchen. Sherry greets you with a big smile, a delicious pot of coffee, and plenty of delightful conversation. She just radiates warmth and friendship and makes you feel like you're a part of her extended family. Everything about Railroad Café breaks corporate rules and stereotypes, as there are none, as it's a locally-owned, one-of-a-kind restaurant, owned and operated by real people, a married couple at that! Talk about local character... This is the kind of place that the members of Sacramento Breakfast Club can't resist!
Photo: Steve is preparing one of meals as Amelia brings a couple of our meals to our table.
Railroad Café is open for breakfast and lunch only, and that's a huge plus in our book, as we are the Sacramento Breakfast Club, all of us are ex-military guys, and we just love breakfast! In our way of thinking, if a restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch, then that means that the majority of their business hours are devoted to breakfast, and breakfast is what we love... Enough musing on my part, as the breakfast menu at Railroad Café features dishes with colorful names such as Train Wreck, Union Pacific and Southern Pacific, which is sure to bring a smile to the face of any railfan. Breakfast is a huge factor at Railroad Café, as their menu features a gigantic assortment of omelets, pancakes, chicken-fried steak, and the de-facto west coast favorite, biscuits and gravy. The lunch menu features assorted sandwiches, burgers, plus fish and chicken wings, and Steve fires up a smoker on weekends and barbecues ribs, tri-tip, chicken and hotlinks for lunch. The barbecue is reserved for another visit and another review...
Photo: Dan and Jeff get their breakfasts served to them by friendly Sherry Jones.
The menu features a huge choice of options for breakfast, and I had already planned to order a chicken-fried steak, but when Sherry told us that the special for Wednesday, November 20, 2007 was chicken-fried pork chops, covered by in-house gravy, both Dan and I jumped at it. She did mention that if we didn't want our entrée fried, we could have our pork chops grilled, but for breakfast, a grilled pork chop, sans gravy is boring, so Dan and I opted for the chicken-fried variety. True to fashion David couldn't resist his usual chicken-fried steak, while Jeff ordered scrambled eggs and hash browns.
No corporate rules apply at Railroad Café, so while our meals were being prepared, I had the opportunity to visit the kitchen, and shake hands with Steve Jones, who along with his wife Sherry, is a co-owner, and principal chef at the restaurant. The kitchen is quite compact, and is very clean, functional and well-organized. How many restaurants in Sacramento allow you to visit their kitchen? Chalk up another point for Railroad Café!
As our meals were being prepared, Sherry came by our tables at regular intervals to keep our coffee cups full of delicious coffee. If you're a fan of coffee with your breakfast, you'll love Railroad Cafe.
Photo: Today's Sacramento Breakfast Club members, from left to right, the author of this article, Eric Rench, David DeMario, Dan MacLeod, and Jeff Brown. We're all buddies and we all work together at our real jobs.
Our meals arrived, piping hot from the kitchen in a very timely manner. My meal consisted of a breaded pork chop, fried in the manner of a chicken-fried steak, covered with gravy, a mountain of country potatoes, two perfectly prepared fried eggs over easy, and biscuits on the side, covered with their chunky, in-house made sausage gravy. Garnish included a slice of orange topped by a smaller slice of kiwi, which made for a very attractive presentation. Dan, David and Jeff's breakfasts were similar, both in presentation, quantity and quality. David and I both went crazy over the made-from-scratch country potatoes, as they were crispy golden brown on the outside, yet soft and chewable on the inside, with lots of diced white onion and bell pepper pieces, that were cooked perfectly, with just a hint of "snap." Jeff is a hash brown sort of guy, and his breakfast featured a huge slab of hash browns, cooked to a beautiful, golden brown. Dan passed on potatoes and instead elected for a mound of diced tomatoes.
Photo: My mouth-watering breakfast is prepared to perfection! Note the mountain of home style potatoes and the in-house made chunky sausage gravy.
Unfortunately, restaurants such as Railroad Café seem to be fading from the American landscape, as many small diners seem to attempt to mimic the national chain restaurants, and prepare what we call "institutional-style cuisine," with pre-made ingredients, unloaded the day before from the Sysco truck.
There is absolutely everything to love about Railroad Café, as you're served delicious food, with attractive presentations, by some of the friendliest people you'll ever have the pleasure to meet. The food is fairly priced, beautifully prepared, and it tastes delicious. The portions are huge, so you'll never go away hungry after enjoying a delicious meal at Railroad Café. We love the restaurant, and we love Steve, Sherry and Amelia. Highly recommended by The Sacramento Breakfast Club.
Digital photos are courtesy of eRench Productions, Inc., custom photography for any occasion...
Copyright(c) 2007 eRench Productions, Inc. All rights reserved. This site has been on the web since December 22, 2002.
Web page design has been created by eRench Productions, Inc., custom photography for any occasion...