The Original Saugus Cafe
25861 Railroad Ave.
Santa Clarita, CA 91355
I can admit that I have become pretty obsessed lately. Someone posted this list of the oldest restaurants in Southern California on Facebook, and I find myself staring at it, and making plans to visit a lot of the restaurants on it. This list of restaurants was compiled by Nikki Kreuzer of The LA Beat. You can see her very well researched list by clicking here.
According to the list, the oldest restaurant within an hour drive of Los Angeles is the Original Saugus Cafe, which happens to be in Santa Clarita. A place where we would be spending the night after attending Katie's cousin, Steve's 50th birthday party. After a wild night of listening to the world famous Steagles, a great Eagles cover band, enjoying a taco guy, and having a few cocktails, we made plans to meet up the next morning and have breakfast at Saugus Cafe with some of Katie's relatives.
Not really some, but it seemed like all. We had a party of 17 for this tiny diner. Katie called at 10 to see if this was going to be a problem, and they said they would put her name on the list, and the tables would be ready in about an hour, which gave us plenty of time to check out of our hotel, and head over. When we arrived they said they had remembered the call, but they still did not have our table ready, and it would be another hour before we could be seated. Luckily, another guy, possibly a manager intervened and got us seated within a half hour. Crisis averted, and we got to cross this 1905 landmark off of our list
Saugus Cafe has been pretty much in this same location for over 110 years. It has a very colorful past, had a number of owners, and hosted many famous people during their century plus run. John Wayne, Clark Gable, Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Whoopi Goldberg, and Drew Barrymore have all occupied these premises at one time or another. In 1952 the original building was torn down and moved a few feet south. Since 1994, Saugus Cafe has new owners who have worked to modernize the restaurant, while maintaining the history of the place.
The cafe definitely has an older feel to it. We were seated way in the back, near the attached bar area. Our long, narrow table was not really conducive to chatting, but Katie and I had a good enough time with Katie's cousins, goofing on other family members, and talking about the last evenings hijinks. This 24 hour spot has a menu that is very breakfast focused. Breakfast is offered all hours of the day, and features lots of specials, egg dishes, and griddle items. We ordered in a pretty orderly fashioned for a large group, and waited for the food that we hoped would soak up some of the alcohol from last nights festivities. Let's see how it all turned out for us.
Listed first on the breakfast menu, Katie selected this Saugus Special ($10.05) as her first meal of the day. This three egg omelette came with sausage, avocado, mushrooms, Swiss cheese, and was topped with sour cream. Katie really enjoyed the size of this breakfast, but did remark that it was an average diner breakfast, nothing special. She'd probably get this without sour cream if she came back here again. Omelettes come with your choice of hash browns, home fries, tomatoes, or cottage cheese. Katie went with the hash browns, which she said were good.
Katie's cousin Steve was pretty indecisive when it came time for him to order. He was torn between the chili cheese omelette, but eventually went with the Corned Beef Omelette ($9.45) after much debate in his head. Even though Steve appears to be a picky eater, he had no qualms about this breakfast. He loved the girth of the omelette, and had no complaints with his food.
For my breakfast, I had to give their Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs ($9.85) a try. As drab as these pictures look, the food on this plate was about the same. The chicken fried steak was very average, with a very bland gravy, whose only saving grace was that it added moisture to the meat. The eggs were cooked fine, and the home style fries were a little better than the hash browns I tried off of Katie's plate, with the addition of onions to the spuds making the difference.
From my awkward position of where I was sitting at the table, I could not get any other pictures of anyone else's food, but no one really raved about their breakfast here. Saugus Cafe did its job of helping us get over a late night of partying with some classic diner food. It definitely served its purpose, and sent us on our way back to OC with a full stomach. The history of this restaurant is enough for at least one visit, but I'm not sure the food will keep people coming back. Not awful, but not worth the drive from OC, and even our cousins from Santa Clarita were not wowed by this visit to Saugus Cafe. On the plus side, even with such a large party, the service we experienced by the staff after being seated was right on the spot, even with a few challenging members of our group. I'm glad I had the opportunity to eat here, as it's not everyday you can dine in a restaurant that was around when Theodore Roosevelt was president.
Out of five airplanes, (because the year this restaurant started, the Wright brothers third plane stayed in the air for 39 minutes, which was the first time a plane stayed aloft for more than a half hour), five being best to zero being worst, The Original Saugus Cafe gets 2.5 airplanes.
Saugus Cafe does not have a website, but you can find a very interesting article on their history by clicking here: http://www.scvhistory.com/scvhistory/sauguscafe.htm