Friday, June 27, 2008

Mission Family Restaurant - Old School - CLOSED

You can tell from the picture that the Mission Family Restaurant has been around for a long time. Concave roof design, ancient sign, and rock wall exterior, this place is old school and nothing beats old school. Cancer is old school and nothing beats cancer. Shut up Lance Armstong!

Another sign that Mission Family is old and old school, the booths have not been redone since who knows when. My booth was held together with duct tape. Literally duct tape. The layers of duct tape tell the age of this place like the rings do on a tree trunk.

I'm not even sure where this place is and I was just there. This is far and away from my usual stomping grounds. #1 Diner Companion Antoinette and #1 Co-worker Eveleen brought me here. It's in Pomona, apparently.

Antoinette said I'd love it based on the decor alone; she knows me well. I love the "dinge" places. Although I was not a fan of the heat lamps I saw on the kitchen counter, just about everything else was top notch in terms of creating an experience.

Antoinette ordered the Mission Scramble, which was described as "scrambled eggs, two pieces of bacon with biscuit and gravy." It arrived as such:

Yes, smothered eggs with the biscuit. No mention of this at all on the menu.

I ordered the country breakfast of 3 eggs, 3 bacon, and biscuits and gravy, all for $6.35. It arrived as this:

Yep, totally normal. Totally as you would expect. I swapped with Antoinette. Sometimes the man has to take a hit. It was a good hit, though. The gravy, which is ladled up like soup onto the plate, was smooth and not greasy. It was just a bit too much. I think I made it through half of it before saying "No mas!" I did really like the biscuits. They had a soft, corn-bread like texture.

Evaleen got a standard pancake sandwich. It was what it was.

That cup in the foreground is coffee, which is very good at Mission Family Restaurant. I also want to note that they serve buttermilk by the glass. I honestly would like to try sitting down to a glass of buttermilk and a biscuit some time.

Other points of interest:

Crane machine! What is it with family restaurants and crane machines?

This one at least has cute stuffed animals. Like real ones that you could conceivably find in a store. These are not your usual hech en Tijuana ones full of sawdust and shredded newspapers. That frog is adorable! And that baby chick on the left? I want to hit with a hammer, it's so cute.

I was a little surprised to find these machines in the bathroom:

I guess it should be called Mission Family Planning Restaurant.

Food: Decent.
Service: Started good then went a little downhill.
Price: 4-10 for entrees
Pie: When it came time for this I got really distracted by a guy with a tracheotomy hole in his neck. It weirded me out. They have basic pies. Apple and Cherry are a safe bet.

Overall: The place thrives on the experience. The food was decent and the price was cheap.

UPDATE- Mission Family Restaurant closed in 2013.

888 W Mission Blvd,
Near S White Ave and W Mission Blvd
Pomona, CA 91766
(909) 629-6412

Monday, June 16, 2008

Auntie Em's Kitchen and being the 'regular'.

What is it to be a regular? You want to feel at home--no, that's not quite right, is it? You want to feel like you are visiting home when you decide to become a regular at a place.
You want to be like the dazzling first born son coming back to visit your widowed mother and younger siblings after your first month at a university (the first person in your family to go!). You haven't been gone long enough to really be missed, just long enough for the routine of home to be broken and for you to be treated with an extra measure of kindness and deference. There's no way anyone is going to ask you to do the dishes.

I've sought out that 'regular' status before. I was oh-so-close to being one at House of Pies. A combination of the House of Pies staff change(Britney, the waitress from Texas, we were almost friends!) and my moving out of the neighborhood robbed me of my burgeoning status. Now I am but a "I might have known you once" ex-lover of the House of Pies.

The closest place I now have is the Eagle Rock standard, Auntie Em's Kitchen.

Auntie Em's is a fine place. Dishes are made from scratch daily with farmer's market produce. You know the drill for this sort of neighborhood breakfast joint. Mismatched coffee mugs and table cloths and brightly painted walls are a bit old hat nowadays. Ten will get you twenty that one wall will be canary yellow, another a sea foam green and the other an inoffensive orange. There's a formula to these places, but that doesn't mean the food isn't good.

Auntie Em's is almost always crowded. If you go there on a weekend expect to wait for a table. The staff is always friendly and personable. These are just some cool kids making their way baking their ciabatta bread and looking for the freshest berries, man. Their positive attitude and friendliness are two of the greatest components of becoming a regular. After all, you don't decide when you're a regular, they do. One of the waitresses yelled at me to "sit down!" when she thought I was rushed into leaving to free up a table. I assured her that I did really have to go.

The first time I ate at Auntie Em's, I ordered the Mabel's shortstack with berries and coconut, which was so beautifully presented and tasty. The fresh fruit and the subtle syrup (poured from an old school Coke bottle) put this head and shoulders above your average pancakes.

And then a cupcake, one of their specialties. I found the cupcake to be too thick, too solid. It was good, but in one bite I felt like I had eaten a brick of Swiss chocolate.

The next time I went, I had the Honey Orange French Toast. also crazy good. Ciabatta bread french toast! Your mind has been blown. The bread was heavy, but easily cut with a fork.

Then I tried the apple pie. Good apple pie; ain't gonna kick Grandma Nellie's to the curb or anything, but it was good.

I rolled in one afternoon not too long ago and got the French Toast Special that day. The ciabatta (all the bread is ciabatta) french toast served with a cherry, blueberry and rhubarb compote. I was sold with that combination. Normally, I can pass on cherry nine times out of ten, but the addition of blueberry and rhubarb (which I love) sounded too good to pass up.

The dishes are just beautiful here. The colors trap your eyes. It would be a disservice to just describe them with 'red' or 'yellow' or 'green.' These dishes are deep crimson, harvest yellow, and emerald; A Crayola box of color.

With each bite I got every flavor present. "ah, there's the cherry, and now the blueberry and here comes the rhubarb!" I was like Violet Beauregard stealing the experimental chewing gum from Wonka.

The perfect portioning filled me up without giving me 'the bloat.'

My friend Professor Nefarious just moved into the neighborhood, and Ulrich Von Hurtem and I decided to take him out to breakfast. We took him to Auntie Em's. For the first time, walking in during prime breakfast time, I didn't need to wait. They sent us out to the patio, my first time out there as well.

Surprisingly, we all went with savory over sweet.

I got the meatloaf open faced breakfast sandwich. Since I can't seem to find it on the online menu, I think it must have been a special. Meatloaf and eggs sounded good at the time. It only sounded good though. It was decent, but certainly not something I would get again.

Ulrich originally wanted the Cajun turkey sausage, but as can be the case when you go to a place that gets everything local and fresh, they had just run out of 10 am on a Sunday. He had to get the Applewood smoked bacon. It was good, but it just wasn't what he really wanted. Breakfast is how you start the day, and you don't want to start the day disappointed. That's what the rest of your day is for.

The Professor got a simple toasted bagel with scrambled eggs and tomato. He said it smelled "fishy," but otherwise it was fine.

This was my one disappointing experience at Auntie Em's. I will keep going, though. Their numbers are up after all. The staff always seems the same. Eventually I may even get a name and remember it. Maybe someday one of them will remember my name. Maybe they'll say things like "Oh go ahead and take a table out back, Mike. You'll love the french toast today. We're trying something new: caramel and bacon pancakes." I'd say "Sounds great," and then smile to myself knowing that my friends at Square One already do that. Oh, I'll get there one day.

You may also want to note that Auntie Em's does brisk take out business and has a tremendous selection of gourmet cupcakes, cookies and other baked goods, as well as various salads and cold noodle dishes available.

Food: Great--Stick to the french toast and pancakes, which seem to be a sure bet.
Service: Friendly
Price: 7-14
Pie: Yes, as well as other delicious pastries.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Polly's Pies

Okay, it’s not a diner. It’s not even my kind of “Family Restaurant.” It’s closer to Kick Back Jack’s/BC CafĂ©. The place is Polly’s Pies, a So Cal chain of restaurants. Last weekend I hit the one in Norco.

Bright yellow barn inspired building with a faux water tower. Is it charming or slightly insulting? I can't tell. Upon entering we are greeted by the happiest greeter that ever greeted. The yellow exterior follows into the inside. Large yellow umbrellas sprout above the booths that hold down the floor. Smiley the Greeter leads the two of us over to a gigantic booth in a corner (again, slightly insulting?)

Peering down at us was a poster of Miguel and Roberto showing off their sweet onions. Not “SWEET!” onions but rather just sweet onions. All the walls were decorated with posters showing farmers and their various crops.

I assumed these were paid for by the various groups responsible, y’know, the Sweet Onion Advisory Council or the Federation Of Organic Tomatoists.

Polly’s has a lot of odd time restrictions on its menu. Breakfast specials are served until only 10:30am. After that, the breakfast selections are awfully paltry. Other specials are only available until 2pm, Monday through Wednesday.

Number 1 Diner Companion Antoinette ordered the Quiche Lorraine and the corn bread side. I ordered the old fashioned chicken salad sandwich with French fries.
The Quiche came with a nice salad with homemade croutons and a small bowl of fresh fruit with incredibly tasty strawberries.

The chicken salad sandwich came with walnut raisin bread. It was so delicious, a little crunchy, not too sloppy with mayonnaise and just a little bit sweet. I was not a fan of the french fries, though. They tasted almost bland.

Our waitress was a sweet older lady, but she disappeared for a long time after she brought our food. We waited to too long for coffee refills and had to ask twice for the cornbread.
When the cornbread did come, I was delighted that it was the cakey kind and not the crumbly kind. The crumbly is only good for chili as far as I am concerned. No honey was provided, though and we couldn't risk having her disappear again by requesting she bring some.

Now here comes the pie. Polly's Pies has over 40 pies on their menu. Unfortunately, many of these are "Time to Time Specialties," meaning they are season pies or just pies they don't make all the time. The standards are always in but the more outrageous selections are not. Olallieberries are in season right now thankfully, and I was able to order a slice of fresh Olallieberry pie. Antoinette ordered the "Banberry:" Banana cream pie with strawberry topping.
The olallieberry was good but not the best I've had. It really need more berries. The fresh whipped cream was a nice addition.

The Banberry was surprising. I've never been a big fan of the combo of strawberry and banana, but this really worked.
I should point out that you can buy fresh whole pies and frozen ones that you can take home and bake yourself, as well as an assortment of other bakery goods.

Bring your kids!
Overall, Polly's Pies was decent. The food was certainly good. I'd love to try more of their pies, but how often am I going to be in Norco? I was there and I still have no idea where it is.
Food: Good.
Service: "Where did she go?"
Price: 6-10
Pie: LOTS of it.
Online coupons!