Nearly every town has one – a local breakfast and lunch diner to call home.
On weekend mornings you can usually find me ordering scrambled eggs, bacon and a cup of small town coffee at the Sun City Cafe. I enjoy it because the prices are reasonable, the food is consistent and the service is friendly. The servers greet many customers by name. I see solo diners and faithful regulars perched at the counter or sitting at tables sipping coffee, reading a newspaper or simply chatting with each other.
The menu is classic diner food.
The most expensive items on it are just under $10 – for salmon, shrimp or pork chops, which includes two sides and a salad. Owners Domingo and Sue Grande also dish up sandwiches, burgers, homemade soups and salads.
Lunch specials, offered Monday through Saturday for $5.99, include meals such as smothered chicken with potato and vegetable or a crispy chicken wrap with chips.
Bottomless coffee refills, omelets and crispy hash browns are favorites for the morning crowd. Another draw is the fact that breakfast food is available at lunch-time on the weekend and until 11 a.m. weekdays.
Serving loyal clientele since 2007, this is no trendy chain trying to recreate a bygone era. This is the real thing, folks.
Occupying the Sun City Plaza space that used to be Pat’s Place, the Grandes run their business as a family affair. Their two oldest daughters, Isabel and Jen, wait tables, as does their niece, Jessica. Their youngest daughter, Amber, age 12, occasionally handles the register.
Domingo has worked in restaurants since he was 18. Learning and collecting recipes along the way, he does the majority of the cafe’s cooking, striving to take an “old-fashioned” approach to all of his dishes.
He enticed his wife to leave her accounting career to run the front of the cafe and do the bookkeeping by promising to name a menu item after her. Sue’s Special – two pancakes or two French toast, two eggs, two strips of bacon and two tasty sausage – is a customer favorite.
One of the top sellers is meatloaf. It’s served as an entree topped with brown gravy or as an open-faced sandwich. Domingo said his secret is to refrigerate the mixed ingredients overnight so they can blend before baking.
Since Domingo’s recipe for meatloaf is a trade secret, I’m including my own version. I know it doesn’t taste exactly like his but I promise it’s a close second. Fluffy and moist, it’s even better eaten the next day sliced in a meatloaf sandwich.
The Sun City Cafe is open seven days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel.
1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 packet Lipton Onion Soup Mix
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon catsup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients together thoroughly.
Transfer meat mixture to a loaf pan. If you choose, spread additional catsup over the top. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until done, and let the meatloaf rest for 20 minutes before slicing. Serve hot.