The Sacramento Breakfast Club loves to explore, one-of-a-kind, locally owned and operated restaurants, and when a co-worker told us about Johanna's Restaurant, we jumped at the chance to visit, as it met and maybe exceeded our criteria.
Photo: Johanna's Restaurant is located on Auburn Blvd, which runs parallel to Business 80, in Sacramento.
If you're looking for fancy dining, complete with white linen table cloths, and tuxedo-clad waiters, Johanna's is no the restaurant that you're looking for. But if you're looking for a very small operation, where the owner is the chief-cook-and-bottlewasher, and, literally is the cook, Johanna's is the place for you. If you're looking for a small, unique restaurant, Johanna's also will fill your needs, as besides the owner, Johanna Tillinghast, she has two other employees, and one of them is her husband. It goes without saying that the restaurant caters to local tastes and cuisine, as Johanna's won't be found advertising on national, or for that matter, local television. As far as the Sacramento Breakfast Club is concerned, Johanna's Restaurant is the sort of place that we enjoy.
Photo: Joyce chats with Davis and Dan, from behind the breakfast counter. The entrance to the kitchen is directly behind her, barely viable in the extreme right of the photo.
There is absolutely nothing fancy, or prestigious about Johanna's, from the quite outdated 1960's decor to the coffee cups that don't match. The menu isn't fancy, as it features local favorites, the sort of food that fills you up and puts a smile on your face, at very inexpensive prices, as Johanna's menu features many breakfast entrées that will leave you plenty of change from your $5.00 bill, including the tip for the friendly waitress. The decor is very basic, which includes a breakfast bar, complete with stools, and the typical mix of booths and tables. We especially enjoyed the lighted ceiling fans, the photos and pennants of the San Francisco 49'ers football team, and the T.V. located near the back door, that was tuned the local news. The selection of the T.V. station seems to be up to the individual diner, as during our visit, the channel was changed a couple of times by or fellow diners.
Photo: Joyce at the cash register, with the kitchen in the background. Johanna's isn't computerized, as they're strictly old-school, and use a revolving wheel for orders, which in 2007, is pure nostalgia.
In keeping with the "plain Jane" atmosphere of Johanna's, you can leave your credit card at home, as Johanna's Restaurant is a cash and carry restaurant, and credit cards aren't accepted. A board is located above the kitchen that advertises the daily specials, and to our chagrin, we noted that biscuits and gravy are only served on weekends. Since this was Thursday, April 19, 2007, a weekday, it appeared that our breakfast would be served without gravy. Ohhhh! Read on, as it didn't happen that way.
As soon as we seated ourselves, our friendly waitress, Joyce appeared, and cheerfully greeted us, and produced coffee mugs and menus. Joyce is the sort of person who really makes you feel at home, as she's a warm and friendly person that you instantly like, not to mention that she's an excellent waitress. Dan and David chose omelets from the menu, and I chose a chicken fried steak breakfast. When we presented the question concerning the lack of gravy to Joyce, she said that it wasn't a problem, as they had plenty of gravy. Then the second question, what about the lack of biscuits on a Thursday? Joyce laughed and said that biscuits weren't a problem, as they could be substituted for the toast. With a smile, David, Dan and I ordered biscuits and gravy for our side dishes, and I ordered extra gravy to cover my hash brown potatoes. Yippeeee!
Photo: Joyce brings Dan his breakfast, as David enjoys his delicious coffee.
Naturally, I got to talking to Joyce, and she explained that Johanna Tillinghast, who is the owner of the restaurant, is also the cook, and she was the one preparing our meal! Gee, talk about wearing different hats. Johanna's husband could be seen bussing tables, and attending to many small details around the place to keep it running. Joyce told us that Johanna has owned the place for 30 years; prior to Johanna's ownership, the restaurant was known as the Red Robin. I asked Joyce how long she's worked there, and she replied that she's been there over 20 years.
My breakfast arrived with the chicken fried steak, covered in gravy, and gravy on top of the hash browns, just as I'd ordered it, and a side dish of biscuits and gravy. For a restaurant that wasn't supposed to have gravy until the weekend, Johanna's really surprised us, as we enjoyed ample biscuits covered with delicious sausage gravy on the side, and my chicken fried steak and hash brown potatoes were covered in gravy. Johanna's is our kind of restaurant!
Photo: My breakfast of biscuits and gravy, chicken fried steak, eggs over easy, and hash browns. Notice the extra gravy I ordered, which Johanna place on top of my hash browns. Ymmmm!
Photo: Today's breakfast members, from left to right: Eric Rench, your author and webmaster, David DeMario, and Dan MacLeod.
An interesting aside, I looked out the window at the seedy motel next door, and saw a working girl, plying her trade, as she knocked on the door of a motel room, and a scruffy-looking gentleman let her inside. We got a laugh out of that. Hey, a girl has to make a living, even at 0900 on a Thursday morning!
After we paid the bill, and left a nice tip for Joyce, Johanna called out to us from the kitchen and wished us a pleasant day. The staff at Johanna's Restaurant makes you feel at home.
Photo: I managed to snap this telephoto of a working girl, plying her trade, at the motel next door to the restaurant. Talk about reality entertainment while we enjoy breakfast!
Johanna's Restaurant features all of the ingredients that members of the Sacramento Breakfast Club enjoys, including local cuisine, one-of-a-kind atmosphere, efficient and friendly service, delicious food, and reasonable prices. Not to mention the fact that Joyce will keep you entertained, and your coffee cup full. When you add everything up, Johanna's Restaurant is a winner.
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