The Sire in Riverside has earned a reputation—and deservedly so—as one of the IE’s coolest guilty-pleasure dive bars. The drinks are strong and cheap here, the ambience ranks low on the fidelity scale and the patron DNA includes barflies and locals. You come here to drink, not gape at Coyote Ugly antics and attractive barkeeps.
But every Batman has its Robin and that’s where The Golden Ox comes in. Located right next-door to The Sire, this greasy spoon makes the perfect companion eatery to said dive bar. After a night of (too many) gin and tonics or whisky sours, you can stumble right over to the Ox and douse your hangover with vegetable oil-laden breakfast vittles in a place that places utilitarianism—they serve hot food here, not entertainment—before silly little things like atmosphere and correctly-spelled menus. It’s retro chic here, without the chic.
Don’t get me wrong here. If you come looking for a simple, home-cookin‘, Sunday morning-type of breakfast spread here, there’s plenty to be had. French toast? Check. Scrambled eggs? Check. They’ve pretty much covered all the tried-and-true basics here. But don’t expect a lot of buttons, whistles and dials to go with your dining experience.
For starters, be prepared to tell the owner what you want at the front counter. Having a waitress take down your order at a table or booth? That’s so 2008. Get in line, place your order, pay for it and then sit yourself down in the vinyl-backed booth of your choosing.
Looking for a tranquil view? A panorama of a Big 5 across the street is as picture-pretty as it’s gonna get.
Want the cream-and-sugar treatment for your coffee? Get steppin‘ kid, cuz the java extras are located over near the kitchen. The powdered non-dairy creamer (they still make this stuff?) has been poured into an empty ketchup squeeze bottle for your convenience. The regular creamer can be manually pumped from a silver and black thermos. There’s the old-school sugar pourer right there. Oh, and want some Splenda or some fancy-pants sweetener? Not here. It’s a pink packet of Sweet’N Low or the pure cane granulated stuff here.
To sample the Ox’s temptations, I order up the chorizo and eggs (scrambled) combo plate while my wife opts for the French toast. No real complaints. The chorizo is savory and tasty (and greasy) and worth its salt as a decadent, carnivorous breakfast choice. Minor quibble: More than two tortilla please! Eggs—which you can’t really mess up—are good and the accompanying beans and rice are up to snuff. My wife’s toast is good and, let’s be fair, while there is no “formal” table service, the staff here is friendly and helpful; bringing extra napkins one minute, pointing you toward the coffee fixin’s another. Heck, they even brought a Mickey Mouse-shaped pancake for our son without asking. “A” for effort Golden Ox!
There are certainly roughhewn charms to be found here. A look around the dining area reassures you that everyone that’s here to nosh is a regular, real salt of the earth-type folks, Joe blue collar. One patron-motorcyclist apparently felt so comfortable he left his leather jacket draped across his bike and his helmet dangling from a handlebar. That’s how they roll here. There’s the way they spell “chicken nuguet” on their lunch menu. When you order a glass of milk, it’s poured from a plastic jug; when you order OJ, they ante up a plastic one-serving bottle, like from a little kid’s lunchbox.
If you look carefully enough, ya might find Flo from Mel’s Diner behind the counter.
And the food is alright, not Brandon’s Diner great, just alright. But, that’s the problem: At the end of the day, it’s just alright. And considering the price tag—we paid nearly twenty bucks for breakfast for two—you could get something four times as savory at, say, the Canyon Crest Café for just a few dollars more.
And you don’t even have to bus your own table.
The Golden Ox at 6490 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, (951) 782-8922. MC, V. Open 6AM-9PM daily.