Mark Schwartz has been a frequent visitor to Vic’s Cafe for 18 years, but it’s not just the perfectly baked pancakes and waffles that keep him coming back. It’s also the people.
“The service is always fabulous,” Schwartz said. “I compare it to that TV show Cheers, where you walk in and everyone knows your name. It’s like a family there.”
Schwartz said he ate breakfast at Vic’s two to three times a week and always ordered pancakes or waffles.
“The pancakes are amazingly hot and the waffles are pretty crispy,” he said. “Every time I walk in, there’s just a really warm welcome. In fact, they’re always like, ‘Do you want pancakes or waffles today?’ That’s how I’m consistent.”
Vic’s Cafe celebrates 80 years in the Paso Robles community this year, and Schwartz is just one of many long-time customers who appreciate the restaurant’s classic, consistent cooking, as well as “the warmth and friendliness the staff,” as Schwartz puts it.
Owner Dee Aud, who bought the business with co-owner Brett Skinner in 2018, said new times that it was important to her to keep quintessential restaurant dishes on the menu – something Vic has been doing for eight decades.
“I would call it classic restaurant food,” Aud said. “We have people driving [to Vic’s] twice a week from Salinas because we are one of the few places that still offers liver and onions. I think we are the only restaurant here that also offers trout and eggs.”
A customer favorite is Larry’s Combo – two eggs, two strips of bacon or sausage, and a choice of pancakes, French toast, or a cinnamon roll.
“The cinnamon roll gets ordered a lot,” Aud said. “We have great cinnamon rolls and we make our own cream cheese frosting in-house.”
Larry’s Combo is named after former owner Larry Eastwood, who bought the restaurant in the 1970s after the death of original owner Vic Buckley. Aud said when she and Skinner took over from Eastwood in 2018, they kept many of the old favorites while updating the ingredients.
“We started making more things from scratch, sourcing local ingredients,” Aud said. “We changed the fruit, now we have seasonal fruit and we updated the sauce recipe.”
Aud has also made the menu more accessible to people with dietary restrictions.
“We offer a lot more gluten-free options. My husband has celiac disease, so this is very important to him,” Aud said. “We added a dedicated gluten-free toaster – we just made sure the separation was clear, so there was no cross-contamination. … We added our own homemade vegetable patty, vegan and gluten-free that we make ourselves.”
Aud said she was drawn to Vic’s Cafe because she could see how well-loved it was in the community, not only because of the restaurant’s longevity, but also because it respects traditions and prices. affordable.
“Twenty years ago there were probably 10% of the restaurants that there are now,” Aud said. “A lot of [the new restaurants] are really upscale, sort of hip places.”
She recalled a time when Vic received a bad review on Yelp: someone complained that the dishes looked too vintage.
“I’m keeping the original color palette,” Aud said. “It actually worked in our favor because people read the review and walked in, just because Vic’s is an old classic.”
Surviving the pandemic has been difficult, especially when COVID-19 first shut everything down.
“It was really, really tough,” Aud said. “For a while I had to fire everyone because it was all a take-out. … payroll protection [program funds] helped a lot. I was able to bring people back as soon as I had that money.”
Now the biggest challenges are supply chain issues and rising ingredient prices.
“I have to redo the menu because of Proposition 12,” Aud said, referring to a new California law that forces hog farmers to give hogs more room, driving up bacon prices. “So I have to raise the prices.”
Despite some of the challenges of the past two years, Aud said her dedicated customers and hardworking staff, some of whom have been with Vic for over a decade, keep everything afloat.
Janet Davalos Mendoza, waitress and venue manager, has been with Vic for nine years.
“I started working there doing the dishes, and later, after three or four years, I moved to be a waitress,” she said. “You feel like you’re in a family restaurant. You know everyone is coming in, and what they’re eating, what they’re drinking.
“It’s a big family, and that’s why I love this place.” Δ
Editor Malea Martin will take Larry’s Combo with a cinnamon bun, please. Contact her at [email protected]