No waffling here

At The Golden Waffle what you see is what you get

GOLDEN YEARS<br>Nina and Mike Shabbar, owners of The Golden Waffle, have built a loyal clientele during the dozen years their restaurant has been in operation.

Nina and Mike Shabbar, owners of The Golden Waffle, have built a loyal clientele during the dozen years their restaurant has been in operation.

Photo By Tom Gascoyne

Without W it’s just…
Golden Waffle is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Waffles run from $2.95 to $5.25. Hamburgers are $4.95 and BLT’s $6.45.

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but can you judge a restaurant by its looks? Probably not in most cases.

There are, however, restaurants that are exactly what they present themselves to be, like The Golden Waffle at Main and Seventh streets in downtown Chico. The GW keeps it simple by serving breakfast and lunch only. Its product is consistent and done right. The restaurant is well-lighted, the staff is genuinely friendly, the waits are short and the food hits the spot.

The Golden Waffle, which shares a parking lot with the Thunderbird Lodge, has gone through a number of incarnations, including Sandy’s in the 1960s, Robert I’s in the ‘70s and early ‘80s and most recently the Shasta Family Restaurant. The building is still owned by the motel, but the restaurant itself is owned by Mike and Nina Shabbar, who moved here from Modesto in 1992 to buy the business.

“The PG&E was turned off when we got here and nothing worked,” recalled Mike.

“We had looked at a restaurant in Davis and one in Modesto,” Nina explained. “Then we heard about this one. We could afford it because it was closed.”

Mike is a French gourmet chef by trade; Nina worked for her father’s restaurant, the Crown Room in Manteca, which is where they met. They both hail from Jordan. Mike came to the United States in 1974; Nina in 1979. They are bright and very engaging people—their good natures are reflected by their employees, people who seem to really enjoy their jobs.

Mike recalled that soon after they bought the restaurant, Nina paid a visit up the street to Jack’s Family Restaurant to snoop around and find out what she could about the investment they’d just made.

“Nina went down to Jack’s, sat at the counter and asked what was happening down the street,” Mike said. “She didn’t say anything about who she was. And the people there said something like, ‘Oh some stupid people bought it. It will be closed real soon.’ Nina came home about in tears.”

Twelve years later the joint is hopping.

“We’re not going to get rich, but we are making a comfortable living,’ Mike said.

Today they employ about 15, including up to four cooks at one time—thus the quick service and short waits for a table.

The GW caters mostly to locals, and on any given weekend morning the place is filled with backward-baseball-cap-wearing young men sitting in the booths with their pajama-pant-wearing girlfriends, older regulars drinking coffee and reading the paper at the counter, and in the dining room, out-of-towners and grandparents with grandchildren, glancing up occasionally at the TV in corner.

First on the menu is, surprise, waffles: You can get a plain or gourmet with a choice of strawberry, cherry, blueberry or apple compote topped with Shubert’s ice cream, which comes from directly across Seventh Street. The waffles are light and tasty and a good deal.

Our favorite breakfast is the simple two eggs over medium, hash browns and wheat toast.

Two eggs over medium can be a tricky order. The yolk has to run, but the white must be solid. The whole idea behind a runny yolk is to sop it up with the toast. Herein lies one of the great dilemmas of the modern American restaurant: efficiently synchronizing delivery of the toast with the arrival of the eggs. It is apparently a tough act to pull off. We call the inevitable delay “The toast lag syndrome.” Every restaurant suffers from it, but at least GWs’ lag time is acceptable, generally no more than 30 seconds, seldom beyond a minute. We can live with it.

The lunch menu, keeping with the theme of simplicity and consistency, is exactly what you’d expect—hamburgers and BLTs, tuna melts and chicken deluxe, all served with steak fries, soup or salad.

There are no surprises at the Golden Waffle; it delivers as promised.