The small Mojave Desert town of Baker, population 1300, is a "strip" of about a mile or so, lined with gas stations, fast food restaurants, convenience stores, motels, and practically every type of business that caters to the Interstate. The town located about halfway between Las Vegas, Nevada, and Barstow, California, and makes a great place to stop, stretch your legs, and take a break from your journey. Baker is noted for two, world-famous landmarks, the "World's Tallest Thermometer," and the The Mad Greek Cafe.
As with all of reviews that I publish, I have no affiliation with the restaurant reviewed, and there is no monetary gain on my part, as I am simply a person who likes to eat, and I love to write-up, and publish my dining experiences.
Photo: The two landmarks that the small Mojave Desert town of Baker is known for, The Mad Greek Cafe, and the "World's Tallest Thermometer." It's just a little past noon on Sunday, September 15, 2019, and I've arrived at this fine diner to enjoy one of the best burgers available in the Mojave Desert.
Did you know the thermometer stands 134 feet tall? Do you know why that number is significant? Back in July, 1913, in nearby Death Valley National Park, the temperature reached 134 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the hottest recorded temperature, so that's why the "World's Tallest Thermometer" stands 134 feet tall, as "feet" represent record temperature "degrees" On this mid-September early afternoon, the temperature is a comfortable 104 degrees.
Photo: Judging by the "faux" Greek statues, you'll almost believe you were in Athens, rather than Baker. The statues definitely add to the cheerful atmosphere...
Photo: It's just past noon on Sunday, September 15, 2019, and I've arrived at a very busy restaurant. I'm at the entrance to the restaurant, at the order counter, and I'm standing just inside the front door. It's not all bad, as I have time to read the menu, posted above the counter, and figure out what I want to order. Despite the seemingly long line, the wait-to-order was only a couple of minutes, as The Made Greek Cafe runs a very efficient restaurant.
Mad Greek operates in what I refer to as a "taqueria" format, as the menu is posted above the order counter, you make your selection from the overhead menu, pay for it, give the cashier your name, and you'll receive a receipt with your name printed on it, and a number to place on your table. After you've received your receipt, you sit at the table of your choice, which is any table that is open, and place your number on the table, in plain view. When your order is ready, one of the friendly staff will bring your order to your table, with a smile. You'll enjoy great service at this fine restaurant!
When you're placing your order inside the restaurant, keep in mind that you order from the menu above the counter, as there are no printed menus. Of course you can order on-line from their web site, or use the drive-through window, if that's what you prefer.
Photo: As you wait in line to place your order, just look up at the ceiling for all of the "welcoming" greetings in Greek, an other languages. At the end of the room, there's a station where you can order shakes, sundaes, smoothies and other chilly goodies, if you're not in the mood to enjoy something to eat.
Photo: The wait-to-order line looks long, but thanks to the efficiency of the staff and the restaurant, your wait is only a couple of minutes, which gives you time to ponder the extensive menu. Mad Greek also has a small pastry counter, featuring - you guessed it - Greek pastries, if that's what you're looking for.
Photo: The friendly order guy at the counter, takes a customer's order. As I placed my order, he asked me if I drive a truck, and I told him I drive a Ford F-250, so he tacked on a 20% "Truckers/Military" discount to my order. Thanks! Despite the fact the restaurant was VERY busy for the Sunday lunch time, back-to-Los Angeles, crowd, counter guy Mitchell, along with every staff member was friendly, courteous, and treated me with efficiency and respect. The staff at Mad Greek are great!
Photo: As you place your order, you can look over the shoulder of your order taker, look into the kitchen, and watch the talented chefs preparing orders. Mad Greek utilizes a mixture of old and new technology, as the restaurant features state-of-the-art computer technology, along with an "old school" order wheel, like you would find in a 1960's era diner.
Photo: Completed orders, ready to deliver, wait on the shelf, as one of the chefs grabs an order from the "old school" order wheel. Note the vertical rotisseries in the background, which are a staple in authentic Greek cooking.
Photo: The "leaving Las Vegas, driving home to Los Angeles" Sunday crowd make The Mad Greek Cafe's dining room a busy place on this early Sunday afternoon. Although the restaurant was VERY busy, I didn't have trouble locating a table, and somehow, a staff member found me, and delivered my order to me with a smile. The restaurant actually has a couple of dining rooms, but this is the main dining room, and the furniture is all booths. Note the booths in the room are decorated in the national colors of Greece, which are white and blue.
Photo: A friendly hostess delivers an order to a group of diners at a booth, near to where I was sitting. Like the dining room, staff members wear "uniforms" of sorts that are blue and white, which are the national colors of Greece. Doesn't the food she's delivering look delicious?
Photo: Meet Danny, my friendly host, who delivers my order with a smile, and a tiny, paper Greek flag placed on top of my "Onassis Burger." Like all the staff members at The Mad Greek Cafe, Danny was very friendly, and treated me well. Despite the fact the restaurant was VERY busy, my burger and fries arrived to my table about 15 minutes after I placed my order.
Photo: I'm all "smiles" as Danny takes my photo, as I know I'm ready to enjoy one of the best burgers the Mojave Desert has to offer.
Photo: From the "Burgers" section of the menu, I went with the "Onassis Burger," along with "Onassis Fries." I never can resist a burger, especially when it's topped with lots of pastrami and nearly all the toppings a die-hard burger lover could dream of. Mad Greek offers a free fried egg to top your burger, if you're so inclined, but I chose not to go with that option...
The burger starts with a 1/3 pound patty of fresh ground beef, cooked the way you order it. In my case, Your meat patty is placed on freshly baked Kaiser roll, and is topped with a generous helping of tender, juicy pastrami, that drips savory juices on the meat patty, and helps to make this a superior burger. Speaking of superior burgers, this burger is truly "old school" as it's dressed with "Thousand Island" dressing, and the meat patty is grilled, and sports char marks.
The "Onassis Burger" doesn't include cheese - I didn't ask if was an option - but in my humble "burger" opinion, it doesn't need any cheese for "enhancement," as this burger is stand-alone delicious. The burger is garnished with fresh tomato and onion slices, along with shredded iceberg and red lettuce. An oddity that I've never seen on a burger before is the lettuce had slivers of carrot, but no worries, as it all worked out.
As I bit into this large burger, my taste buds went bonkers, as this burger was delicious! Oh yeah... you get it... the juicy meat patty, tender, juicy pastrami, the vegetable garnishes, the fresh Kaiser roll... all held together with "Thousand Island" dressing for a taste sensation, and an "old school" burger, right out of the 1960's.
The fries make a perfect side, as they're deep fried to a crispy, golden brown on the outside, and inside, they're tender and juicy. The fries are perfectly seasoned, and even have a little sprinkling of feta cheese for extra flavor. The fries compliment the "Onassis Burger," and make for a perfect meal. As an aside, if fries aren't your "thing," you may order rice instead.
Come to The Mad Greek Cafe for the kitschy, "faux Greek" atmosphere, along with the hype, and the world-famous publicity, but order the "Onassis Burger" and enjoy a superior burger.
As an added bonus, the gentleman at the order counter, Mitchell, asked what type of vehicle I was driving, and I told him I was driving my Ford F-250 truck. He proceeded to lower my bill by 20%, as he gave me the "Truckers/Military" discount of 20%! With the discount, I paid only $9.35, including sales tax, for my amazing "Onassis Burger" and fries!
Photo: Close-up of the "Onassis Burger, which is an amazing, "old school" burger, and will make anybody who appreciates a great burger happy. You can see all of the juicy goodness, along with the dressing, which makes my mouth water just thinking about it. This burger is as good as a burger can get!
The Mad Greek Cafe may be considered by some to be a crazy, cheesy, larger-than-life, kitschy and almost unbelievable restaurant, but the food is simply amazing, the service is fast and friendly, and the atmosphere is priceless. No wonder this is a world-famous, landmark restaurant!
As you travel along Interstate 15 on your journey to Las Vegas, or if you're going the other way, to Los Angeles, do yourself a favor and stop by The Mad Greek Cafe for a great meal, along with an unforgettable dining experience.
Back on Tuesday morning, March 17, 2009, I paid a previous visit to The Mad Greek Restaurant...
As you drive east on Interstate 15, on your way to winning fabulous riches in Las Vegas, you can't help to notice what seem to be hundreds of billboards promoting the Mad Greek, in the town of Baker, in the middle of the Mojave Desert, about half way between Sin City and Los Angeles. The billboards promote such lofty slogans as "Everybody is Greek at Mad Greek," "Best Gyros USA," or "Love our Strawberry Shakes," and other catchy phrases. I wasn't drawn to the restaurants by the numerous billboards, as I was staying across the street at the Bun Boy Motel, and something in the back of my brain recalled that I'd heard about Mad Greek on television a couple of years ago... I rarely miss an opportunity to try an unusual restaurant, nor do I miss an opportunity to enjoy breakfast, so on Tuesday morning, March 17, 2009, I decided to combine my two passions and enjoy breakfast at The Mad Greek Diner.
Photo: The Mad Greek Cafe, taken from the intersection of First and Baker, with "The World's Tallest Thermometer" in the background. Photo gives you an idea of the chintzy outdoor decor.
Photo: Taken from across Baker Blvd. from the restaurant, this photo shows the classic Greek architecture that the diner features, the beautiful columns, and the statues. Note the Greek flags on top of the restaurant.
The small town of Baker is a very competent gas-restroom-food stop between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, as its about a three hour drive from either location. It's a favorite stop for big-rig drivers, as it offers inexpensive motels, lots of diesel, repair facilities, and lots of diners and fast-food joints. Baker is world-famous for two reasons, as it contains a) The World's Tallest Thermometer, and b) Mad Greek. Thanks to the giant thermometer and the funky Mad Greek restaurant, Baker is on the map!
Photo: Mad Greek Diner features outdoor dining on their patio, where you can dine next to the Mad Olive Tree, and admire the classic Greek columns and statues, all crafted out of plastic!
If you're a sucker for a kitschy decor, The Mad Greek Diner is for you. When you walk into the restaurant, you're struck a feeling that can only be described as "Is this really real?" Maybe it, and maybe it isn't, but whatever the case, you'll have a difficult time trying the categorize the decor, as it's a mixture of faux-Greek, art deco, East Coast diner, and just plain kitsch. You'll marvel at the neon-worshiping, aqua-colored, vinyl-upholstered booths, the cheap, plastic statues that are supposed to resemble classic Greek statues, and the signs that are plastered everywhere, that promote the virtues of being Greek, both in English, and in Greek, using Greek characters. It seems that every inch of the restaurant is decorated with some item that embellishes Greek Pride, complete with slogans, and even some cuss words in the Greek language, so I'm told. It's like seeing the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding on steroids, much larger-than-life, and immortalized in a restaurant... it's almost overwhelming, but keeping things in prospective, it's just a kitschy, pseudo-Greek marketing ploy. To complete the mood, cheesy mandolin music is playing in the background...
Photo: Here's the view as soon as you walk into the restaurant. The decor is a mix of pseudo-Greek, art deco and just plain American funk.
Photo: These folks are placing their order at the order counter. Note the lighted menu board, and the cashier that is ringing up the sale.
If you're a fan of outdoor dining, you're in your element, as Mad Greek offers comfortable tables and chairs, under a shaded overhead, facing busy Baker Boulevard, the main drag in town. You can relax at a table and marvel at the cheap, plastic replicas of classical Greek statues, and admire the gilded columns that hold up the awning, gilded with gold-colored plastic. If you're dining at night, your romantic lighting will come from strung-up Christmas lights, and several neon signs to make the mood complete. You can watch the big-rigs roll up and down the boulevard, and listen to the latest country and western hits blare from boomboxes and jacked-up pickup trucks. If you're not inclined to romance, you can skip the outdoor dining scene altogether and utilize the drive-through window. Mad Greek has all bases covered!
Photo: A peek into Mad Greek's kitchen, although it's a small peek, but the photo will give you an idea of some of the items on the menu.
Photo: Here comes an order of strawberry shakes! Note the framed photos of famous Greeks, and the Greek writing above the door. The soft drink dispensers are to the left of the photo.
Mad Greek operates on pretty much the same format as a fast food restaurant, in that you place your order, and pay for it at the counter, take a plastic number, and sit yourself at a table. When your order is ready, one of the staff members brings it to your table. Your coffee or soft drinks come from a dispenser, and when you place a drink order, you're given a cup, which you can fill up as many times as you wish. Mad Greek is a 24/7 operation, so their menu offers selections appropriate for any time of the day, and what a large, disorganized selection the menu is, as it includes such diverse offerings as souvalki, kabobs, gyros, pita dogs, hamburgers, Philly steak sandwich, chili, horchata, Greek coffee, and strawberry milkshakes, just to name a few of the menu items. I homed in on the breakfast menu, which offered many traditional American favorites, but I ordered Gyro and Eggs, as I'd never even dreamed of a gyro for breakfast before visiting Mad Greek, but on the other hand, you haven't really experienced life until you've dined at the Greek. I placed my order, handed my money to the gal behind the counter, and was given an empty coffee cup and a plastic number to place on my table.
Photo: My delicious breakfast... now I know what a breakfast Gyro is, and I can tell you that it's delicious. Note the attractive presentation, and the cantaloupe and sprig of parsley for garnish, and the thick sourdough toast. Despite the cheesy decor, The Mad Greek Diner serves a delicious breakfast.
Photo: During my visit, I found the restaurant to be very clean, and the staff members were very friendly and attentive. Note the clean, shiny floor.
Photo: The little girl in pink seems to be running away from the photo... note the Greek slogans printed on the ceiling beams, and the merchandise and souvenirs behind the glass counter. Photo shows some of the typical decor inside the restaurant.
I've read various dining reports on the Internet, lambasting Mad Greek for being dirty, and having poor service, but I didn't experience either, as my meal was placed on my table in a very timely manner, and the restaurant appeared to be quite clean, as while I was waiting for my meal to arrive, I watched a couple staff members mopping the floor. I've also read reports that the food is lacking in quality, and overpriced. Perhaps I'm not a connoisseur of true Greek cuisine, but I found my meal to be delicious, as the eggs were cooked to order, the hash brown potatoes were golden brown, but not heavy or greasy, and the meal came garnished with a slice of cantaloupe and a sprig of parsley. The gyro meat was delicious, as it was juicy, and mildly-spicy, but not at all hot, and so tender that you really didn't need a knife to cut it. I was impressed by my order of sourdough toast, as each piece was very thick -- about a half an inch -- and the toast came with real butter, which melted as I spread it on the warm toast. The total price of the meal, including an endless large cup of coffee and tax came to only $9.94, with no tip expected, nor included.
Photo: I love this slogan, which is placed above the order counter... Yassou! Note the yellow sign to the right, which tells you to enjoy your order the Greek way, or not at all... Hey Dorothy, this ain't Burger King, and you ain't in Kansas!
Photo: A portion of the dining room, showing the vinyl upholstered booths, more Greek slogans, and one of the many gaudy, faux-Greek paintings that decorate the walls.
If you're GPS inclined, the GPS coordinates to Mad Greek are N35.15.948, W116.04.495, with an elevation of 956 feet. Even if you're map-challenged, now you can find your way to Mad Greek.
Photo: I don't think these guys are on the payroll, but they seem to part of the outdoor clean-up crew, and these are only a few of the outdoor custodial staff who keep the grounds free of any food scraps. Aren't these birds native to Greece?
Mad Greek is crazy, cheesy, larger-than-life, kitschy and almost unbelievable, but their food is great, the service is good, the portions are good, and the price is right. Where else in California can you dine on gyros and eggs for breakfast, while admiring some of the craziest decor in the country? So go ahead, make your day, and dine at the Mad Greek! Consider this: Breakfast at The Mad Greek Cafe will give you bragging rights around the office water cooler the following Monday morning.
Copyright(c) 2019 eRench Productions. All rights reserved. We've been on the web since December 22, 2002.