Whenever I see a restaurant named after someone, it makes me wonder if that person actually exists. Did the owner just arbitrarily choose a name for the restaurant that’s easier to pronounce than his real name? That’s probably what I would do.
In any case, I thought I’d finally give Cindy’s a try after passing it up so many times on the freeway. Judging by the flower décor and color scheme of the sign – yellow, red and green – I figured it was probably a diner. All other details about the restaurant, though, were as mysterious to me as that Milk Farm Restaurant sign off Interstate-80.
After doing some research, I discovered that Cindy‘s, located at 4823 Chiles Road, has been in business for over 20 years. The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch every day.
Since there was an IHOP just across the street from my apartment – and my friend and I had driven across town to get to Cindy’s – I was hoping it would prove to be the mother of all diners. Its dimly lit ceiling lamps and torn leather-cushioned seating, however, did not impress me.
What is definitely worth noting, though, is the fast and friendly service. The orange juice I ordered came out within mere minutes and was the taste of perfection. It was freshly squeezed, sweet and had just the right amount of pulp, although if I had known such a small cup would have cost me $2.45, I might have gone home for some Minute Maid instead. But great stuff comes with great cost, right?
Fortunately for those on a budget, most of the entrées are below $10 and come with a load of food on the side. For $7 to $10, you can get one main item with a potato or fried grits, as well as a choice of toast, pancakes, or muffins.
Cindy’s menu is particularly different from other menus in that its selections extend beyond the usual breakfast items. Some choices listed under their “traditional” section include corned beef hash, breaded pork tenderloin, top sirloin steak, kielbasa sausage, and liver and onions.
I’m not exactly sure who would consider it traditional to have liver for breakfast – or at any meal, for that matter – but it’s probably not a popular item among the college population. Then again, it was probably not meant for college students, as my friend and I were the only patrons in the restaurant who looked below the age of 65.
Not feeling adventurous or “traditional” enough for liver, I opted for the kielbasa sausage with scrambled eggs, hash browns, and pancakes for $7.75. My friend, having a slightly heartier appetite, ordered the top sirloin steak with eggs served sunny-side up and an English muffin for $9.75. Cindy’s also has a lunch menu with burgers, specialty sandwiches, salads and old-fashioned milkshakes.
While waiting for our food, I noticed that our waitress knew other customers by their first names, and was chatting it up with a man by the counter. Although she didn‘t know my name, she did call me “Sweetie” many times that morning. It was actually kind of nice, and I can see why Davis locals would rather stop at Cindy’s than face the unknowns at any other restaurant.
After about a 15-minute wait, our food arrived. My pancakes looked like two fluffs of cloud. They were soft and moist with butter, and complemented perfectly by maple syrup. The hash browns had a light crisp to them, and small pieces of shredded potato fell apart as I picked at it. It was obviously fresh – not like the oil-drenched, frozen stuff you’d get at a fast-food joint. The kielbasa sausage was tasty, too, but not as exceptional as what I’ve had at other places.
My friend ordered his top sirloin medium-rare, but what arrived was a small, one-inch-thick piece of steak with blood leaking from the inside. Aside from the thin outer layer, everything else looked as if it were still raw.
I took a bite, and was actually taken aback by how flavorful it turned out to be. Its look in no way prepared me for its rich, charbroiled taste. While it may not be the best piece of steak I’ve ever had, I thought it was still pretty good. Considering the amount of food it came with for less than $10, you really can’t complain.
I’m not sure what Cindy’s lunch items taste like, but for breakfast its food is probably the freshest and most original you can find in the area. True to its motto – “Home-style Cooking from People Who Care“ – Cindy’s is a place that can make you feel like home. Maybe if you go there often enough, they’ll learn your name and introduce you to Cindy.
THUY TRAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.