Every day, millions of people eat breakfast at chain restaurants like Denny’s and IHOP. Although Denny’s has totally worn me out, I do eat at an IHOP now and then when I meet a certain friend for breakfast. For real quality food, however, I don’t look for either of these logos.
There’s no guarantee a Mom and Pop neighborhood restaurant is going to have wonderful food. Some are very mediocre, but when you find such a place that really does have good food, it can beat the chains hands down. Such a place is Rise & Shine, a neighborhood restaurant in southwest Fort Worth.
Steve and Christie Phan have been running this restaurant for twelve years or so. In that time, they’ve built up a base of loyal customers who keep coming back—many of them several times a week. I go there anytime I get the chance.
Steve and Christie both grew up in Vietnam. Steve left to come here in 1985, and Christie, in 1994. Steve helped open a couple of restaurants before he took over this one.
Christie laughed when I asked her what got them over here. Steve came because he had family here, but he missed her once he got here. She said they grew up in the same neighborhood together but that he was too shy to let her know how he felt about her. Apparently it took the intervention of some family members to get the two of them together.
Once they got together, it didn’t take them long to start their own family. Their older daughter just graduated from high school, and their younger daughter is in third grade. Both girls spend time at the restaurant now and then, and both are attractive, well-behaved young ladies.
Steve does the cooking, and Christie is the manager and cashier. Both are friendly with customers, although Christie is much more outgoing than Steve. She kids with a lot of us about breakfast being free tomorrow. Of course, we all know tomorrow never comes.
Steve has two particular claims to fame. The first thing new customers notice about his cooking is that he is fast. Seems like the waitresses barely get the orders turned in before he calls to them to come pick them up. Yes, he calls them. They don’t use bells or such devices. He calls the waitress’s name at a volume that can be heard all over the restaurant. That’s part of the unique charm of the place.
Steve’s other claim to fame is that HE CAN COOK. I love omelets, and I like them soft. Those who know me know that I don’t like anything well-done and dried out. Steak, biscuits, eggs—it doesn’t make any difference. I want it soft and moist. When I’m anywhere else, I rarely even try to get an omelet cooked to my liking. The cooks just can’t make one soft enough to suit me. Steve can. His omelets always come out exactly as I like them.
His hash browns are better than anyone else’s, too. Most restaurants grate them into such thin little strips they can’t keep from making them dry—and usually burned. Steve grates his more in the shape of shoestrings. Then he must cook them in actual grease at a reasonable temperature, because they’re always moist and never burned.
You might wonder if he just undercooks everything, but he doesn’t. I hear other customers order crisp hash browns, well-done eggs, crisp toast and so forth, and he gets theirs right also. We customers consider Steve a treasure and feel fortunate to have him.
Since Christie is the manager, I assume she’s responsible for assembling the wait staff. Maybe he helps—I don’t know. But with or without his help, she does a great job of it. I’ve told her before that in most restaurants I have a favorite waitress and always try to sit in her section, but at Rise & Shine they’re all wonderful. They’re all friendly and give attentive service. And when they have a few extra minutes, they’ll sit down and visit, or at least stop by the booth and visit.
In future posts, I’ll be presenting these wonderful ladies to you one at a time. I consider all of them friends, and I hope they consider me one, too.
What do you look for in picking a restaurant? Which meals are your favorite for eating out, breakfast, lunch or supper?
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