Allison’s Country Cafe
3429 Telegraph Road
$4.75 – $11.29
They stand around outside every Saturday and Sunday morning, reading their newspapers and sipping their coffee. Hungry yet patient, they wait 20 or 30 minutes for a table at this Ventura institution. I’ve been driving by and seeing these crowds for years, always wondering what it was like.
Allison’s Country Cafe has been serving up country cookin’ for around 30 years now, and has been voted “Best Breakfast” in this very publication numerous times. And now I finally know why.
The restaurant lives up to its name, not only with its food, but also its décor. The décor is country all the way, from the picket fences that separate the booths to the wooden ducks scattered throughout the space. Old-fashioned magazine ads and Saturday Evening Post covers adorn the walls, adding to the sense of nostalgia.
The menu is full of options, no matter what you are in the mood for. Pancakes and waffles? Check. Omelets and scrambles? Check. Pork chops and country fried steak? Check.
Of all the items on the menu, don’t miss the homemade biscuits. They sit about four inches tall, are golden brown on top and full of soft white dough inside. The Allison’s biscuit is actually more like a roll, as it doesn’t flake into layers or crumble as some buttermilk biscuits do. What’s great about it is its size and soft texture — the perfect pairing for the tangy homemade raspberry jam or the savory gravy. The biscuits come as a side to most of the egg dishes, or as their own entree with homemade gravy, which is thick, creamy and full of salty ham and spicy sausage.
If you’re looking for something hearty, try the corned beef hash or the chicken fried steak. The corned beef is shockingly pink, with parts of it browned to a dark crisp. The finely chopped beef is flecked with tiny pieces of onion and vibrant green parsley; and the contrast in the textures and colors make it truly outstanding.
As for the chicken fried steak, it is hall of fame good. The meat is pounded thin, the breading is light, and the whole thing is perfectly tender. Rather than a thick, crunchy, flour-based batter, the batter on this steak is light and seems to be more egg-based. It is so delicious it doesn’t even need the bowl of gravy that comes on the side, which means you can save it for your biscuits. When it comes to how you want your potatoes, the O’Brien potatoes stand out. The potatoes are sliced and then sautéed with onions and peppers. Our server suggested ordering them well done, so they were dark brown and a little crispy, which we really loved.
If you’re thinking you want something savory, but slightly lighter, the Italian omelet with a side of fruit might be right up your alley. Filled with chopped tomatoes, basil, loads of garlic and mozzarella cheese (gooey and melting inside, and bubbly and brown on top), it is like an Italian pizza on a plate. The fruit cup is not your average fruit cup.
Blackberries, strawberries, pineapple and watermelon join more melon, bananas, apples and grapes to make their own little cornucopia on the plate.
If you like to start your day with something sweet, be sure to order the granola pancakes. They mix granola into the pancake batter, and even sprinkle a bit on top, giving the pancakes a heartiness and a nice bite. We bathed ours in syrup, and practically licked the plate clean. This is a fun variation on the traditional pancake; like the classic buttermilk pancake’s slightly wild, outdoorsy stepsister.
If you happen to be under the age of 12, you’ll be psyched about the kids menu. Allison’s mixes buttermilk pancakes in whimsical shapes (think Mickey Mouse, hearts and dinosaurs). Expertly made, the cakes become spongy when spread with butter and drenched in syrup. They come with an egg and two strips of bacon on the side.
Though this is one of Ventura’s older restaurants, Allison’s Country Cafe has also embraced the new. You can find it on the Web and on Facebook, where it will tempt your taste buds and keep you up to date on the weekly specials. Who knows, they might even tantalize you into standing in line for some biscuits and gravy this weekend. They are well worth the wait.