Down home breakfasts

This Orland eatery serves food for ‘regular folk’

KOUNTRY KOMFORT Matt Bascom tries the sausage and eggs out for size from server Stacy Redenives.

KOUNTRY KOMFORT Matt Bascom tries the sausage and eggs out for size from server Stacy Redenives.

Photo By Tom Angel

Head for the Kountry: Kountry Kitchen Café, 729 4th St. in Orland, is open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week.

My partner and I thought it would be a lark to take a drive before going out to breakfast. We wanted to try either that little café up in Forest Ranch or a place I’d spied while driving through Orland one day. We flipped a quarter and I won, securing the right to choose. Because Orland sometimes reminds me of my hometown of Weaverville, I decided upon a drive through the orchards and open farmlands to the east.

If you have a leisurely Saturday to spend, this 20-mile drive is pleasant. You see cows, horses, people working in orchards and other bucolic sights. It’s calming after leaving behind the increasingly frenetic pace of Chico.

As you enter Orland, you see signs of change: It’s a town on the move. Predictors of such things say Orland will soon morph into a bustling bedroom community for Chico. Contractors have huge housing developments underway, and new businesses are starting to spring up.

But for now Orland still has the quaint air of a farming town (they grow beans, rice, wheat, oranges, corn, kiwis, olives, almonds, prunes and pistachios there, just to name a few of the crops). The restaurant we visited, Kountry Kitchen Café, reminded me of The Nugget Cafe in Weaverville: full of what I like to call “regular folks,” which is to say farmers, orchard workers and other rural, small-town people. There weren’t any of the “beautiful people” (i.e., cut-outs from People magazine) you find in some of the posher spots in downtown Chico. Thank God!

We were greeted by a fresh-faced waitress who had a country-girl look, and she very cordially pointed out some “favorites” on the menu—a menu that is not for those who are looking for some kind of “gourmet” Saturday-morning brunch but is exactly right for those who are looking for just a regular, “down-home” kind of breakfast: hash browns, fried eggs or omelettes, pancakes, that sort of thing. The kind of fare you would expect in a farm town café.

I settled on a half-order of the biscuits and sausage gravy ($2.75), while my partner, who has the appetite of a teenage boy, went for “The Hungry Rancher Breakfast” (two pancakes, two eggs, sausage or bacon served with country-style potatoes, $6.25). Word of warning: Don’t order The Hungry Rancher unless you arrive truly ravenous, because even my partner (who can eat anything and still stay slender) couldn’t finish it.

The pancakes were huge and fluffy, not heavy, and they came with the Aunt Jemima kind of syrup of our childhoods (none of that 100-percent maple syrup, thank you). His eggs, which he ordered over easy, were cooked to perfection, and the country-style potatoes pleased us both—not too greasy and not too crispy. Only the bacon proved a little disappointing, as it had that overcooked crunchiness to it that we really can’t stand.

My biscuits and sausage gravy not only tasted delicious, but also reminded me of the “stick-to-your-ribs” breakfasts I saw loggers eating while I was growing up in Weaverville. The golden-brown biscuits wallowed in a nice sea of just-lumpy-enough gravy. Our coffee was nothing special—just the Folgers or whatever institutional brand you find in a small-town café—no “Brazilian Brew” or “Guatemala Blend"—but it was perfectly satisfactory, and fresh half-and-half was available (this is important if, like me, you loathe those little containers of non-dairy creamer).

Before leaving the Kountry Kitchen Café, I looked at the “Fluffy Omelettes” section of the menu, where I spied a veggie omelette ($6.75), definitely something worth coming back for. Also of interest (to my partner the big eater, anyway) was the Buffet Breakfast, served Saturday from 8 to 12 and Sunday from 8 to 11.

What drew me to the Kountry Kitchen Café in the first place was the cars—when I spied the vast numbers parked out front, I knew it had to be one of the locals’ favorite spots.

Shun Chico some Saturday morning and drive to Orland for a "regular folks" kind of breakfast.