Farewell to local favorites
Restaurants come and go, but SN&R’s dining writers recall the memories and the dishes they’ll miss the most
In 2006, I moved into an apartment in Alkali Flats. I remember the agent would only meet me early in the morning. I realized why after a few days of playing house: After 10 a.m., the whole street would smell like an old fryer. I lived next door to Sandra Dee’s—and it quickly became my go-to spot.
It was where girlfriends and I would pregame. The bar was full of dusty bottles, and drinks were expensive and weak. The stools were always crooked, but we liked the lighting in the corner where we could take selfies and loudly gossip without the leering glances of random dudes.
It was where I would take first dates. Could this new person take me at my worst stuffing my face with too-greasy fried chicken? Or deserve me at my best sloppily wiping the best barbecue sauce I’ve ever had off my cheeks?
I eventually became “vegetarian,” meaning I ate two things at Sandra Dee’s: cereal and the mac and cheese. The macaroni was soft, and it was loaded with salty, creamy, slightly chalky cheese sauce, with a crunchy top that I would save for the very last bite.
More than a decade before Wide Open Walls, Sandra Dee’s had an artist paint legendary musicians on its exterior, which served many downtown fashion bloggers well. Somewhere in the internet ether exist dozens of pictures of hipster kids posing in front of the only pre-Instagrammable wall in Sacramento.
In the last years of Sandra Dee’s run, it was vogue to criticize it—the bad service, the prices, etc. When celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and team came to spruce up the joint in the reality show 24 Hours to Hell And Back, there were hopefuls who prayed it would breathe much-needed life into the greasy spoon. The changes stubbornly didn’t stick. I liked it the way it was. (O.S.)
I remember waking up in my downtown apartment craving a hearty breakfast to soak up the drinks from the night before. The fridge was empty, so my partner and I biked down 12th Street to Jim-Denny’s Diner and it just so happened that two seats opened right up at the 10-seat counter. It was (and still is until Feb. 2) a front-row seat to the incredibly fast pace of employees working the line. Because of the diner’s close quarters, customers could hear bacon and sausage links sizzle next to hash browns and be warmed by the steam from the grill.
My fresh cup of coffee poured from an old, brown-rimmed coffee pot was served in a decorative Christmas mug that you’d find in Grandma’s cabinets. It was Christmas in July sipping out of that mug. I will also never forget the special seat, right next to the old rotary phone mounted on the far wall. A local historian once told me that it’s custom to answer the phone and maybe take an order or two. That was the type of charm Jim-Denny’s created throughout the years.
A few dishes I’ll miss may not be over-the-top special, but simple breakfast comforts enjoyed with friendly chatter have their appeal: The Small Breakfast Combo Plate, with one egg, choice of meat (bacon of course), half order of hash browns and a mini pancake. A side of sourdough toast and a couple splashes of Tabasco, and I was all set that morning years ago. Thank you for the memories Jim-Denny’s—and for the hot pastrami sandwiches. (S.R.)
Last weekend, I watched The Shining for the first time at the Crest Theatre. When Shelley Duvall screams in horror as she reads a crudely scrawled “Redrum” in the mirror, my mind immediately went to that cute drive-in shake shop in Davis—Redrum Burger, formerly known as Murder Burger.
When I found out it closed in August, I felt a nostalgic sadness at the loss of such an unassuming, old-fashioned diner.
My husband and I happened upon it while driving around Davis one late Saturday afternoon. We had a coupon for Dunloe Brewing, but wanted something quick and greasy before guzzling a few free beers. I spotted it and suggested it, kind of as a joke because it looked a little run down and maybe not even open. But he was intrigued by the name and we decided to try it. We both had the same thought: This could either be an amazing, no-messing-around burger joint or a this-just-in-from-the-freezer joint. To the pleasant surprise of our happy bellies, it was the former.
The 1950s-style diner featured a massive menu with a million more options for additional toppings, sauces and sides. Whether placing an order at the window or counter inside, a cheerful smile welcomed customers to take their time choosing a burger “so good they’re to die for.”
Elk, bison or ostrich burgers, killer hot dogs, deep-fried veggies and, of course, the infamous Aggie Annihilator with two, half-pound patties, bacon and melty cheese. Each burger came wrapped in paper and cushioned between two fluffy sourdough buns. The hot, crispy fries sprinkled with salt and soaked through with grease made my heart hurt, but my taste buds happy. I miss the fries the most, especially dipped in Redrum’s garlic mayonnaise or pesto sauce. Thanks, Redrum Burger, for making so many tummies full with loaded burgers and crunchy fries. (TMO)
As a herbivore, I can’t tell you much about Original Perry’s extensive diner menu, other than that the French fries passed muster. I have a friend who waxes poetic about the Linguica N’ Cheese Burger, and that friend was devastated when I told him that Original Perry’s closed in December after 51 years.
What I can tell you about Original Perry’s is that it was open 24 hours, and I’ve spent many late nights there with friends and with coffee, hashing out problems or just catching up. On the rare occasion that I’ve visited in daylight, the place was packed and the staff knew their regulars’ orders by heart.
Original Perry’s opened in 1968 and looked it until the very end: With the booths and stained glass partitions, it was a diner that hewed closely to its original aesthetic. So does Mr. Perry’s Coffee Shop about a mile away. With a similar menu and ambiance, it’s the second of three establishments opened by Perry Potiris. Despite the similarities, the two have different owners. Original Perry’s was owned by Paul Fraga, who worked his way up from busboy to manager, then purchased the diner in 2010.
Fraga clearly loved Original Perry’s. He blamed the closure on high rent, but also the rising minimum wage. It’s disappointing to hear a restaurant owner grumble about the expense of paying employees the bare minimum, especially when he himself once held those same positions. (L.O.)