The 10 tenets

Venita Rhea’s

4415 Granite Dr.
Rocklin, CA 95677
Ste. 1500

(916) 624-2697

Mother Nature savagely snatches away Sunday golf. So brunch is broached with the two other two-legged members of the Lucas family. As to the four-legged members—let them eat cat chow.

Venita Rhea’s is the curiously chosen name (find out why on their Web site); all-day breakfast is the game. Randy Peters started the place with his wife, Lisa, and last year, they sold the restaurant to concentrate on catering. Online, several reviewers claim slippage in quality.

The restaurant’s site also catalogues the capacious menu. There are 10 egg Benedicts, including the eponymous Venita Rhea: poached eggs, chicken breast, fresh spinach and sliced tomatoes on a Health Nut English muffin.

Other variants have names that sound like bedtime on Walton’s Mountain—Jimmy Ray, Mary Sue, Bobby Earl, Papa Chuck, Uncle Leo.

Their ingredients, in various combinations, cut a broad culinary swath. Shredded pork, roast turkey, bell peppers, avocado, hot links, pepper jack, Cajun hollandaise, eggplant, shrimp, ciabatta, crab cakes and asparagus. But picking your Benedictine poison is only the beginning: home fries, hash browns, cottage cheese, sliced tomatoes, fresh fruit or yogurt? Orange, grapefruit, carrot—all fresh-squeezed—apple, cranberry or V8? With a couple exceptions, the whole kit ’n’ caboodle is $9.97.

This alone warrants a Rocklin pilgrimage. Then there are the six kinds of hash browns and 11 omelet options. And that’s still just the top of the pancake stack, since it doesn’t include lunch salads, burgers and sandwiches, which are legion.

The current owners reserve the menu’s back page to present 10 of their operational tenets. Among the pledges are to serve the best coffee—a positive but as yet unattained goal—and to cook anything a customer brings in the door, some notice required.

The chefs use canola oil. “If it can be made a healthier way we’re trying to do so,” the back page says. And, in a spirit of charity, “If you run out of money, talk to us … we accept first born.”

At high noon on Sunday, there’s a briefish wait. One of the 10 tenets is a speedy meal and zippy service.

Regrettably, we’re seated far away from the wall-sized mural intended to trick the diner into thinking he is gazing upon a quaint European village. There’s a chateau, sidewalk grocery and bridged river. Except there are lots of “hidden” inhabitants, including Batman, Eeyore and Robert Shaw’s final resting place in Jaws.

Within seconds of being seated, waitress Judy takes drink orders. Daughter Katie’s large and my small cranberry juice are swiftly fetched. There’s a Valentine’s weekend lobster and crab Benedict special at $14—something that grabs my attention.

Katie predictably picks pancakes, waffling over big stack, short stack. Since the flapjacks are Frisbee-sized, it’s lucky she goes short. Mrs. Lucas, abandoning her long-standing review-avoidance policy, tries to throw Judy a curve on the broccoli, mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, black olives, avocado and Swiss cheese omelet by nixing the eggplant and reducing the cheese quotient. Egg Beaters instead of egg whites. Judy handles it with panache.

As the owners promise, the meals come quickly. It’s a wonder Judy and her colleagues don’t get hernias. There’s enough lobster and crabmeat to feed two and still fill a king-sized kitty bag. The mound of omelet seemingly dwarfs the Sierra foothills.

Katie’s pancakes are pert-near perfect. So is the nothing-lite-about-it maple syrup. Mrs. Lucas describes her vegetables as “incredibly fresh.” But some of the other meal components don’t live up to the braggadocio on the backs of the bus boys’ and girls’ T-shirts: “Food So Fresh You Have to Slap It.” My allegedly fresh fruit tastes store-bought. So does the salsa for the omelet.

These are heavy meals consisting of heavy food. Many hours elapse before further sustenance is required. It’s a fun and friendly place, even if falling a notch under present management. It remains an appealing, option-rich eatery with a delightful surprise if it’s a diner’s birthday, and bonus points for finding John 3:16. The zeitgeist of Judy and her compatriots lifts it half a star. Next time, the lunch menu.