Smothered with love
Less would be more at popular new downtown diner
Mom’s209 Salem St.
Chico, CA 95928
I wasn’t quite expecting all the attention I got when I walked in the door of Mom’s on a recent morning.
The moment my feet hit the carpet, I was met by not one, but two exuberantly friendly employees dressed in the black and yellow of the sunflower in the Mom’s logo. They made sure I was quickly seated, handed a menu and given the cup of coffee I desired.
The service at the 4-month-old, unabashedly mom-centric, downtown breakfast-and-lunch restaurant located in the former Black Crow restaurant and bar was very attentive from the get-go, and never let up.
My server (one of the two greeters) took my order for a “scramble” called The Greek—eggs, spinach, grilled onions, black olives, artichoke hearts and feta cheese ($8.69), which comes with home-style potatoes. There are three menu pages of breakfast possibilities, which include various spins on Eggs Benedict, hash, omelets and pancakes.
I waited for my food while I sipped on my hefty mug of medium-roast coffee with cream. One does not have to sit at Mom’s with an empty cup waiting for a refill, as often happens in diners with smaller cups.
Overall, my egg dish was good—I liked the combination of ingredients. The potatoes had a slight taste and feel of having sat on the grill a little too long (or perhaps they were reheated), but not a huge sticking point. However, the refrigerator-cold artichoke hearts mixed into my hot scrambled-egg dish were startling.
The next day, I went for lunch with a date. I ordered a BLT with macaroni salad ($8.99), and he had a garden salad ($4.49) with house-made balsamic vinaigrette, and a side of cornbread ($1.99).
My lunch date liked his salad—a nice mixture of tender, assorted greens, carrots and red onions with a tasty dressing—but found his cornbread a little too sweet and cake-like, and not sufficiently corn-mealy.
The applewood-smoked bacon loaded onto my sandwich was thick and delicious, and the wheat bread used was satisfying, but the macaroni salad had a pale-orange tint to it and looked as if microscopic bits of Velveeta had been mixed into the mayonnaise.
Also, the macaroni salad was curiously made with a large, grooved elbow noodle rather than a simple short-elbow noodle. The “upscale” noodles and unusual dressing did not mesh with the simple down-homeness normally associated with a macaroni salad from a place named “Mom’s.”
Which gets me to what struck me most about Mom’s (besides the attentive service): The food and the décor seem to be in the throes of an identity crisis sometimes associated with new eateries.
The food-just-like-Mom-used-to-make theme indicated by the many photos of mothers and mom-centric slogans on the walls, and by the menu offerings such as a meatloaf sandwich and biscuits and gravy, gets watered down and confused by such things as complicating the macaroni salad or offering a decidedly non-down-home Mandarin Spinach Salad containing a mixture of oranges, bacon, strawberries and almonds with a roasted-shallot vinaigrette.
The somewhat confused menu is similar to the inconsistent décor—for instance, a smattering of farm implements on the walls indicating “barn,” not “Mom’s place,” and plastic, faux red-lace tablecloths in the south dining room not matching the sunflower-themed color scheme indicated by the black and the yellow of the server shirts or the green-and-white coffee cups. Mom’s is owned by Jack Sterling, the same person who owns Madison Bear Garden across the street; perhaps that explains the amusing mish-mash of the decor.
If the Mom’s folks can dial in their food and décor to a consistency matching the excellence of their service, they’re sure to increase what is already a bustling-on-the-weekends business.