Season of the sandwich
Is it just me, or is our neck of the woods particularly good at generating “hidden gems”? I’m starting to wonder how many other prizes I’ll find in the industrial parts of town. Tucked into a business block in the industrial area of east Glendale, Vonz Diner is not just another greasy spoon. For one thing, it’s a lot bigger inside than you’d guess from the street-facing facade, with a large restaurant out front and an even bigger back room featuring a stage, several classic automobiles in working condition, and shelves full of memorabilia. The walls are also covered in kitsch—with a '50s and '60s hot rod/pop culture theme—and signs indicating that nearly everything in the joint is available for sale.
The menu includes all the classic breakfast goodies you’d expect, with enough variety you could start half a year’s Saturdays there and never order the same thing twice. Lunch options include soups, salads, burgers, hot dogs, chicken wings and tenders, classic sides, fish and chips, and a long list of hot and cold sandwiches. However, one menu category makes Vonz Diner stand apart: fat sandwiches ($10.50).
Although you can find “fat sandwiches” elsewhere, Vonz’s creations have a certain “mad scientist” vibe. How else to explain the Reno Cuda, which includes cheese steak, chicken fried steak, Italian sausage, scrambled egg, avocado, deep-fried mozzarella sticks, lettuce, peppered mayo, all of which is then stuffed into a foot-long french roll and topped with crinkle-cut french fries, which you can eat as part of the sandwich. When I asked if those were options I was told, “It’s all in there, and I’ll tell you how to eat it.” The trick is to cut it into thirds with a steak knife, which makes it almost manageable to pick up and eat without looking like a crazy person. Almost.
Although I felt the sausage overpowered the other flavors a bit, the overall effect was stupefyingly delicious. That crazy combination of ingredients tasted great together, and just trying to eat the thing made it more event than meal. The next time we visit, I’ll try either the Firebird (grilled chicken, bacon, deep-fried chicken tenders and mozzarella sticks, sausage, Swiss cheese, ranch dressing, barbecue sauce, hot sauce), or the Diamond T (pepperoni, cheese steak, deep-fried chicken tenders and mozzarella sticks, grilled peppers and onions, tzatziki sauce, mayo, ketchup).
My wife was in a breakfast mood and ordered biscuits and gravy with eggs ($9.75), which proved to be on the “just like Mama used to make” level of blue collar cuisine. The biscuits were big and fluffy, served swimming in a sea of really tasty, peppery sausage gravy. Two perfectly-prepared eggs (over medium) and crispy bacon shared the plate, along with potato squares (possibly deep-fried) that were really crispy on the outside, with a fluffy almost mashed-potato interior. Some of our recent breakfast outings have been a mixed bag, but my wife was extremely satisfied by this above-average plate of comfort food.
We both ordered coffee ($2) and were pleasantly surprised. Some diner coffee can be pretty wretched, but this brew had an interesting floral note I wasn’t expecting. It wasn’t as strong as I make at home, but the flavor was decent and the refills were plentiful. Even though I should have been beyond dessert, I ordered a strawberry milkshake for us to share ($3.99). It was more than enough for two people, featuring the creamy, thick texture you only get with real ice cream that has been hand-blended. It perhaps could have had more strawberries, but was otherwise just dandy. Vonz has got it goin’ on.