Jeff Smith 4 p.m., Dec. 20
Diner food and Belushi flicks
Breakfast at a retro coffee shop in Golden Hill.
I liked the sign on the wall inside the Golden Hill Cafe that indicated the restaurant “will be closed for filming the movie K-9. In 1988. Next to that, the picture of John Stamos. He wasn’t in K-9, but that’s OK. Why not have a picture of Stamos on the wall? I also liked the signs in the windows, the ones with pictures of the food and the prices of oatmeal and fish tacos. This lack of classiness appeals to some strange desire that I have; for hospital-colored walls, vinyl booths, individual coffee creamers, and unabashed acceptance of the fact that nothing has changed in the restaurant since the movie K-9 was being filmed.
Golden Hill Cafe wasn’t very cool. It was more like the pointed opposite of cool, a kind of anti-cool that’s cool in its own way. Maybe that’s a stretch, but I gather that the place has managed to bridge some kind of culinary culture gap between the working types who might come in on weekdays, families, and late-brunching weekend hipster youth who want to get away from artful breakfasts.
The food itself is pure Sysco-style, short order fare. I saw great, fluffy, golden pancakes move throughout the dining area, as well as a few club sandwiches that made generous use of iceberg lettuce and Wonderbread to create towering lunches alongside huge sides of fries. I wouldn’t dream of paying $16 for steak and eggs at the Cafe, but a $5.50 hotcakes with eggs and bacon is another matter entirely!
An order of eggs Benedict ($10.95) was served on top of gargantuan, fluffy English muffins that soaked up the just-add-water Hollandaise sauce to delightful effect. The eggs had somehow been ideally coddled to the point where the yolks were solid but still a deep yellow-orange color and creamy textured. While it may have been a one-off success, the unexpectedly delicious eggs were a pleasant surprise.
Chicken fried steak ($9.50), served with oily but delicious hash browns, had its own charms. The meat was a piece of pounded skirt steak maybe an eighth of an inch thick. Sawing it into chewy bits was fun, and the breaded, pan-fried flavor was spot on. My over-easy eggs gave up a lot of yolk for dipping toast into. The big let-down was the gravy, which was thin and lumpy in the way that gravy from a package tends to be.
Golden Hill Cafe has an advantageous location, down the street from a nice park and right in the midst of the neighborhood. The food doesn’t aspire to much, but the friendly service and selectively moderate prices paint a favorable picture. Anyone who pays more than $10 for a meal is going to feel a little underwhelmed, but weirdly charming building and cheap pancakes definitely have something to offer
2505 C Street