Table for Two! – Hot time in the Old Town Cafe
It was the bar and restaurant business that brought Phil and Tiffany Yonge together 11 years ago. It was due to her business skills that they came to Nevada County, but it was his dream of his own restaurant that made them owners of the Old Town Cafe in downtown Grass Valley.
“I always wanted to have my own place, ever since I was bussing tables when I was 18,” said Phil.
He was 23 and working at the Sport City Cafe in San Jose when he met Tiffany, a bartender at San Jose Live, another sports bar owned by the same group that included some 49ers football players.
She had a business degree from San Jose State, and after they married, they decided it was time to leave Silicon Valley. Phil grew up in Cupertino, not far from where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple Computers in the Jobs family’s garage, and he had seen acres of fruit and nut groves paved over.
Tiffany’s parents had a vacation home at Lake Wildwood, and Phil’s family had camped here when he was a kid. When they first headed for the foothills they ended up in Placerville, commuting to work in Sacramento. But when Tiffany was asked to run Enterprise Rent-a-Car’s Grass Valley office, they grabbed the opportunity.
“Now all of our family lives up here,” Phil laughed.
Tiffany is now an area vice-president for Adecco, an employment services company, and Phil has his hands full running the Old Town Cafe, which is open on Sundays starting this week. (Tiffany usually can be found helping out at the cafe on Saturdays.)
“We’d been looking for a place for five years before buying the Old Town from Tom and Laura Gonzalez,” said Phil. “It was a good match – a solid customer base with the type of customers I relate to.”
The slogan on the front window, “Oldest continuous restaurant in Grass Valley,” was researched by Gonzalez, Phil said. “We believe the first restaurant on this site was back in the 1920s.”
The menu, which may be tweaked a bit in the future, is traditional cafe fare: eggs, hotcakes, biscuits and gravy at breakfast; burgers, sandwiches, shakes and salads for lunch. (Try the 49er burger, made with a half-pound of 100 percent ground Angus beef.)
But it is the daily specials that shine, produced by chef Donna Thoman.
“Many specials are so popular that we have a list of people who want to be alerted when something like chicken cordon bleu is being served,” said Phil. “I usually walk around downtown and pass the word.”
Other specials with fan clubs include the Monte Cristo sandwich (“People tell me it’s the best they’ve ever had,” said Phil), meatloaf sandwich, chicken and mushroom crepes, and the vegetarian sandwich (cream cheese with almonds, green onions, olives, sprouts, cucumbers, tomatoes, and avocado on whole wheat).
There are fish specials on Friday and homemade clam chowder, too. In fact, Phil is proud of all their soups, such as Italian sausage with noodles and Southwestern cream of chicken. Salad specials are favorites, too, including ahi tuna, shrimp Caesar, and maple-glazed salmon with chipotle dressing.
For dessert, Old Town is proud of its bread pudding. Also look for fruit cobblers and all kinds of pies, including blackberry.
The wait staff can be credited for the Old Town’s friendly, small-town atmosphere, chatting up regulars and greeting new visitors. But Phil is also proud of their high level of service.
“A lot of people tell us that one of the main reasons they eat here is because we can get them in and out for lunch in a half-hour.”
Richard Somerville is a restaurant fan and the editor of The Union. Conversations in Table for Two! are based on his whims and on reader suggestions. To suggest a conversation, or to pass along area dining news, contact email@example.com, fax at 477-4292, or write to Richard Somerville at The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, CA 95945.
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At a Glance:
110 Mill St., Grass Valley
Monday-Saturday 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sunday 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Visa and MasterCard accepted
Street and lot parking; daily specials; vegetarian and low-carb dishes; children’s menu
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