Friday, September 11, 2009, I had the day off work, and it seemed like a perfect day to take an extra-long hike, as the weather was sunny and warm. For years I've noticed a small, hole-in-the-wall restaurant in downtown Roseville by the name of Denny's Café, who's specialty is advertised as American and Chinese food. I also noticed that they opened at 0900 for breakfast. So today seemed like a perfect day to give Denny's a try, as I had a few errands to run in downtown Roseville, and a couple of stops to make on the way home. Since downtown Roseville is a little over three miles from my house, I was assured of a round-trip walk of over six miles, which is a decent amount to walk on a day off.
Photo: Denny's Café is located on recently renovated Vernon St., in historic downtown Roseville, California.
Denny's Café is located in downtown Roseville, CA, on the east side of the railroad tracks. If you're at all familiar with Roseville, you know that the downtown area is divided by the Union Pacific railroad tracks, and the east and west downtown have very distinct differences. The west side bills itself as "Historic Downtown Roseville," and seems to be entertainment-oriented, as there are numerous bars, nightclubs and restaurants. The east side of downtown, where Denny's is located, is more retail-oriented, and has a fairly good mixture of various small, retail outlets. Both sides of downtown have recently undergone a makeover, and now sport attractive landscaping, renovated historic buildings, Farmer's Market, regular events, and lots of free parking.
There is absolutely nothing high-tech about Denny's Café, as the restaurant is almost is a throwback to days gone by, and reminds me of a Route 66 hash house from the 1950's. For starters, there is no air conditioning, which is an oddity for a restaurant located in the Sacramento Valley, which regularly receives 100+ degree days for several months of the year; the restaurant is cooled by an old-fashioned swamp cooler. At the time of my visit, the restaurant was a one-man show, as Manny, the owner was the only one there, and he was performing all duties, including cooking, waiting on tables, cleaning and making change. (During the half hour of so that I was in the restaurant, I was the only customer...) Don't look for a computer, or for that matter, a cash register, as there isn't one - Manny makes change from a drawer and figures out the bill, including the tax, by hand on a note pad, the old fashioned way.
Photo: Looking inside the restaurant, with the kitchen in the rear. Note the combination of vinyl and maple chairs that don't match... the booths are upholstered in orange naugahyde vinyl! How 'bout that '70's television!
The decor is funky, confused, and retro in every way. The walls are painted a cream color, with light blue trim, and there's even waistocating. The furniture is a mixture of tables and booths, but it's not uniform. The furniture is upholstered in naugahyde vinyl, and the tables and counter tops are Formica; pure 1950's. What's interesting is some of the tables and chairs are country maple, and the rest is the upholstered variety. There are framed prints decorating the walls, and some scraggly potted plants near the window at the front of the restaurant and behind the counter. Behind the counter there is a model ship, a ship's wheel, and other nautical items, a few Chinese lanterns and a Chinese dragon or two. If Denny's is attempting to create a "theme," the theme that they've created is pure American funk, from the 1950's.
Photo: I'd desribe the decor as "pure American funk,' but the wall to the right of the photo seems to have a nautical, or is it a Chinese influence? Note the ball lamps hanging from the ceiling; pure 1960's style lighting fixtures.
But you don't patronize a place like this for it's decor, you patronize it for the food, the one-of-a-kind charm, if that's what you want to call it, and patronize the local, little guy, rather than the corporate behemoth. What Denny's Café lacks in decor, it more than makes up in personality...
Photo: The kitchen at Denny's Café is clean, and quite well-organized. I'm a sucker for kitchen shots!
I chose breakfast menu item number four, which consists of two eggs, hash browns, and buttered toast. Naturally, I ordered coffee, although for a moment I considered ordering a Tsingtao beer, as I noticed that the cooler behind the breakfast bar was stocked with various brands of Chinese beer.
After taking my order, Manny went into the kitchen and busied himself preparing my order. I took in more of the funky decor, including the waistcoating, the 1970's vintage television mounted behind the breakfast counter, and the hanging ball lamps, straight out of the 1960's. Hollywood producers should discover this restaurant if they need another Tom's Restaurant, the diner made famous on the Seinfeld show. I'm a huge fan of kitchen shots, so I got up from my booth, and poked my camera lens into the kitchen, and blasted off a photo, which took Manny completely by surprise. He asked me, "What are you doing," and I simply replied, "Taking photos..." how about that for a simple, truthful statement! Of course I went into the spiel about my Internet activities, and how I was going to publish this article on the web; I'm not sure if he believed me, or for that matter, was even familiar with the Internet. Having caused enough damage, I went back to my table, and took another sip of the delicious coffee that I had ordered.
In less than five minutes my breakfast was on the table in front of me. After making some small talk with Manny, I got him to pose for me, as he refilled my coffee cup, and I got him to take a photo of me as well.
Photo: After placing my breakfast on the table, Manny pours another cup of delicious coffee. Note the orange naugahyde vinyl, which doesn't exactly match the cream colored walls and the blue waistcoating. The floor is vinyl tile as well.
Photo: I got Manny to snap my photo before I dug into my breakfast. Note the ice water, which is a nice touch on a hot September morning, in a restaurant without air conditioning. I rewarded Manny with a generous tip.
What really can you say about such a basic breakfast? I ordered eggs over easy, and they were cooked just right, the hash browns were golden crispy on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside, and the toast was hot, and buttered with real butter. The coffee was delicious, and Manny made sure that my cup didn't run dry. As I was enjoying my breakfast, I watched Manny figuring out my bill using a note pad, and figuring out the tax by hand. Remember, the restaurant doesn't even have a manual cash register!
When I was finished, Manny came over to take my plates and give me the check, and I complimented him on my delicious breakfast. He beamed, and mentioned "You were hungry," as I had wolfed down my breakfast, and nearly devoured the plate. I told him that I'd developed quite an appetite while hiking over to the restaurant. I also mentioned that I'd enjoyed my breakfast, and that I planned to return. For that statement, I received a heartfelt thank you from Manny.
Photo: My delicious breakfast, before I added salt, pepper, and a helping of Tabasco sauce on the eggs. I really appreciated the tomato slice, as I love tomatoes as a side to my breakfast. The only thing missing was country gravy...
Does Denny's Café serve the best breakfast in Roseville? No, not even close, when compared to some of the breakfasts that I've enjoyed during meetings of the Sacramento Breakfast Club. But if you like to patronize the little guy, and like a disorganized, funky decor, a decent breakfast and a very reasonable price, Denny's Café is your kind of restaurant.
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