No Rest for the Hungry

Posted April 23, 2009 in Eats

Rumor has it that California’s biggest pancakes reside in Chino, at Guasti Homestyle Café. Eager to witness whether this claim might bear any semblance of truth, I set out for the café on a clear, sunny morning where the heat rises exponentially by the hour and the smell of manure hangs heavy in the air. The parking lot, small and hidden behind a 1920s plaster and cement block building, is already packed by rows of trucks and SUVs, with compacts uncomfortably squeezed between the former. If size mattered, this should probably provide the first clue that Guasti is not for the faint of appetite.


Thankfully, the café is large, and before I even get a gander of the white board specials, a grandmotherly hostess, who I initially mistake for a waiting customer, leads me to a barren back room overlooking the parking lot. Red-and-white checked vinyl tablecloths dress every single table, which also comes standard with a 2-quart bottle of Mrs. Butterworth’s, a bucket of cream, one basket of Knott’s jams and mugs that look like they came from my own kitchen cabinet—like the freebies I sneak into oversized totes at trade shows. 


A weathered, but friendly, lady fills my mug with steaming, strong coffee (which, at a quarter for a bottomless cup, is a no-brainer) and arches her eyebrows heavenwards when I finally inform her of my order after a detailed recitation of the white board meals—the pancake combo ($8.99) with bacon and eggs, and the omelet special of spinach, onions, cheese and bacon served alongside homestyle potatoes and biscuits and gravy ($7.99). She only trots back to the kitchen once she’s convinced my sanity is intact. At least I didn’t tack on the Messina burger (a half-pounder with fried eggs and ham) and the skillets which, at five eggs and everything but the kitchen sink, turns out to be a wise decision.


I’m halfway through my cup of joe when a bewildered server arrives with the order, and I see the pancake rumor is no exaggeration—two fluffy, full-sized Frisbees that draw a hoot from the equally bewildered neighboring table of first-timers and soak up syrup like a sponge. There is no mystery behind the big pancake I learn later – the chefs have always made a big pancake, and nobody has managed to consume the short stack of two flapjacks in one sitting. In fact, one short stack packs enough punch to feed a small army and then some. 


The omelet, while not matching the eye-popping sensation of the cakes, does pack a hearty punch—the special is filled generously with freshly sautéed veggies, and then topped off by another layer of spinach under two slices of melted Swiss, matched by a platter-length helping of potatoes. Even the bacon is A-1 quality—thick and meaty—and the eggs fluffy without being flaccid. 


Guasti may be the home of the 25-cent cup of coffee, but it could and should officially lay claim to the title of “Home of the Biggest Pancake Nobody Could Ever Eat.” 


Guasti Homestyle Café, 13526 Central Ave., Chino, (909) 627-5970, Breakfast for two: $$. Cash only.


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