Split Decisions

Posted August 6, 2009 in Eats

The hybrid restaurant has long been the laughingstock of the restaurant industry, considered only slightly above Hometown Buffet, Arby’s and hospital cafeterias. We instinctively recoil from the donut shop that also serves egg rolls and smokes, the Thai joint that also offers pizza, or, like in the case of Brandon’s Diner, proclaims that they serve up both Mexican and “American” food and that both are delicious.


Normally our instincts are correct; very often these places simply suck. But maybe it’s time to reappraise our view of the hybrid restaurant, for are they not a symbol of the new America, the multicultural wonder that is our current society. Is not a dive where you can get samosa, Kools and a lottery ticket a symbol of the freedom we often talk of in this country? Or at least a decent choice when you can’t decide what you’re looking for that day?


Brandon’s Diner is the choice for those who can’t make a choice, a true celebration of the multicultural menu. Now, let’s be real—this ain’t fine dining, but something closer to a greasy spoon nirvana. Especially, especially if you like grease. There’s plenty to like on the menu and plenty to avoid. Usually in a diner, breakfast is a safe choice and ditto at Brandon’s.  The pancakes, biscuits and gravy, ham, omelets, all work in a very old-school kind of way, with little foof or fuss. When I hit up Brandon’s for some morning munchies I went with three eggs with biscuits and gravy on the side. I received exactly what I was looking for: a cheap, slightly trashy breakfast that really hits the spot, especially if you’re nursing any sort of hangover. There’s also a choice of Mexican dishes for desayunar, if you’re looking for a little spice with your grease.  


In keeping with the duality of Brandon’s, I came back another time for lunch. Did I mention that they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner 365 days a year?  That’s either brilliant or terribly sad and I can’t figure out which.  But it is absolute freedom. I hit the Mexican side of the menu for lunch.  I went with the chile verde burrito, a giant deal which is all pork, rice, and refried, all simplicity, but something you might want to load up on the Pico de Gallo or hot sauce for. The Verde is actually one of the smaller burritos at Brandon’s, which has a whiff of “I bet you can’t eat all this” kind of competitive eating vibe, chief among these the El Matador. I came away stuffed, but with way less indigestion that I often get from diners of this ilk.  


As befitting the hybrid restaurant there are scads more choices at Brandon’s. They’ve got heartburn-inducing fare like chili cheese fries with onions, chips with guacamole, poppers and the like. There are salads too, although salads are usually a poor choice at diners, all iceberg lettuce and overly cooked meat. And then there are the myriad slew of burgers, deli sandwiches, and dinner choice options, which Brandon’s also serves up.  


And in keeping with the hybrid theme there are actually five Brandon’s dotting the Inland Empire, a quasi-chain if you will, but all family-owned. I did breakfast in Rancho Cucamonga and lunch in Riverside and the only difference between the two diners is location. So, in an era of hybrid cars, dual citizenships and biracial presidencies, maybe it’s finally time to embrace the dual kitchen. Brandon’s Diner is a fine place to start. 


Brandon’s Diner, 8609 Baseline Road, Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 989-2256. 6AM-9PM. MC, V.


Brandon’s Diner, 10271 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, (951) 637-2782. Sun-Thur, 6AM -9 PM, Fri-Sat, 6AM-10PM. MC, V.


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