Life gives you Lemmon
It was my husband’s idea to try this place, so he had no one but himself to blame when we pulled up on a sunny Saturday morning and found our Ford Focus brought to heel by the fleet of enormous four-by-four trucks and Jeeps towering over it in the parking lot of Hometown Café. “I might as well be wearing high heels and a skirt,” he muttered.
I admit we felt a little bit like the Blues Brothers walking into the Country Bunker at first. Yet without condescension, a couple of cheerful vaqueros, having just finished breakfast, saluted us before driving off in one of the monster trucks. Indeed, everyone turned out to be exactly that friendly at this homey, countrified alcove on Lemmon Drive a few miles north of the city.
But please do not equate “countrified” with “lowbrow.” While out of the way by some standards, Hometown Café is not some backwater truck stop where Flo May McGrump scratches her prison tattoo while mixing her tobacco spittle into your coffee. It’s a very nice place. On the high shelves, there’s a charming exhibit of antique kitchen hardware, and on the walls are mounted numerous classic advertisements for bread flour, baking soda, and other staples your grandmother might have employed. It’s like a little rural museum.
Without even seeing the Focus, our practical and friendly server instantly made us: “Are you from around here?” she asked, as if she were a lawyer who already knew the answer to her own question. When we replied we were from Reno, she laughed and said, “Yeah, I knew you weren’t regulars.” This tells me straightaway that, for locals, the place is iconic, and they dine there as much for the social interaction as the food. Amid cheerful cries of, “How you doin’?” and “How’s your hip feeling?” we sifted through our breakfast menu.
Food was served quickly and politely just a few minutes after our order, and it was all conventional greasy-spoon fare, to be sure. My husband’s huevos rancheros with a serviceable salsa topping were better than my vegetarian omelet (both were $7.29), but it was still made with the middling American cheese and canned refried beans typical for this genre and not on a par with the better renditions you might find in town. My home fries exhibited that classic crisp, salty-greasy decadence and were slightly better than his hash browns, but the omelet was bland, a victim of standardization and lack of ambition that too often pervades these otherwise charming breakfast spots.
Had we a devoted carnivore in our midst, we might have intel on the pancake sandwich ($6.75 to $6.99), with eggs, sausage and bacon with the cakes as the “bread,” or the hometown special omelet ($7.29) with Linguica (Portuguese sausage) and various vegetables and cheese. Lunch options are predictable standards: A BLT will set you back $5.99, while a chili dog or burger runs $6.99 or $6.75, respectively. But you can’t pigeonhole a place that renders Italian-style options like chicken Alfredo ($9.89) or Mexican offerings such as Corona fish tacos ($7.99).
If the Lemmon Valley area really is your “hometown” then you would do well to know of this place offering superb service and OK food at a solid price. Of course, if you’re from Lemmon Valley, you probably already knew that, and you might already be a regular. While I can’t say I will go back just for Hometown Café, I would have no problem stopping and having brunch on the way back from my next excursion up North.