Three long-time downtown Pleasanton breakfast/lunch restaurants changed hands around the start of the pandemic and have battled through it.
Now, two years down the road, they’re hitting their stride.
The wife-husband team of Laura and Ernesto Castro took over Vic’s All-Star Kitchen on Main Street on March 1, about two weeks before Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the shutdown. They’ve pivoted, established a nice, semi-permanent covered outdoor dining space in the parking lot in front of the restaurant.
Meanwhile, the popular Rising Loafer, which combined an interesting breakfast/lunch menu with quality baked goods, shut in August 2019 after long-time owner Mary Costello died unexpectedly at 54. The Loafer was a favorite meeting place with quality food and good coffee. Some former employees put together an agreement and re-opened the restaurant as the Downtown Cafe. The menu contains some familiar favorites and has been freshened with a variety of additional interesting items.
The same can be said for Vic’s where its traditional offerings named for coaches are still on the menu, but there are weekly and daily specials and Chef Ernesto is letting his creativity flow into the expanded . The Castros had worked for the former owner for years and executed a smooth transition.
Both restaurants have added a variety of scrambles to complement the traditional egg, omlette and eggs benedict offerings along with pancakes and French toast.
The new menu at both places require some study as opposed to simply ordering one of my regulars—scrambled eggs and ham topped with cheese at Vic’s or Joe’s special or chicken apple sausage and eggs at the Downtown Cafe. On my last few visits, I have ventured elsewhere on the menu with good results. Vic’s now offers chicken apple sausage and both restaurants have added a variety of toasts. That’s not enough for me for breakfast or lunch, but probably fits lighter eaters very well.
Both establishments also have significantly broadened their Mexican-style offerings and added the option of Mimosas or Bloody Marys for those so-inclined on their weekend brunch or a weekday celebration.
The interiors have been made over with the pandemic reducing seating density. Both feature new tableware to complement the new interior color schemes. It fits with the general refresh that both longtime downtown fixtures have been through.
Another long-time favorite, Jim’s Country Kitchen also has freshened its menu with some new offerings, but remains the choice a “working man” meal with huge portions for breakfast and lunch served in the western environment. I remember one friend, who used to enjoy the eggs at Jim’s, having to “suffer” through oatmeal after a heart scare. Regular meals at Jim’s could lead in that direction if you don’t pay attention.
As has been the case for years, you can’t miss at any of the three—it’s just what you feel like that day and the potential crowd (Vic’s has the most seating.) All three serve breakfast throughout the day.
Sadly, you’ll no longer have the chance to see the late John Madden there, but you still might catch his sons or his wife at one of their favorite establishments.