The Not So Denny’s Cracker Barrel of the Inland Empire
By Nancy Powell
Traveling along the 15 from BFE to the great Inland Empire beyond, one can find a treasure trove of greasy spoons wanting to indulge the errant traveler’s urge for munchies (or not) or resist nature’s call for intestinal relief. And then there is Corky’s Kitchen and Bakery, a 24/7 chain born and reared off the Route 66 beaten path by way of the great Dust Bowl. Corky’s is the Inland Empire’s answer to Cracker Barrel, a direct competitor to Denny’s and a place to soak up the nostalgic remnants of Americana in air-conditioned obscurity.
The Corona location, the newest one in the outfit, has a large, spacious dining room lined by high-backed booths that provide some measure of privacy with faux country memorabilia decorating antiseptically white walls; happy, smiling faces of servers not anxiously awaiting the break time escape; a bakery selection with some really junkie choices to sink your sweet tooth into; and all the extra napkins I could ever need to hide extra crumbs and soak up greasy finger. And just as with the myriad diners peppering the Route 66 landscape, Corky’s menu echoes the ample collection of finger lickin‘ comfort foods, done up with a slight upscale twist to justify its more upscale hit to the pocketbook.
Hungry for dinner hour breakfast, I choose the stuffed French toast combo ($8.49) with raspberry and creamed cheese, two extra plump sausage links and the sunniest pile of scrambled eggs I’d seen outside of plasticized Japanese food samples. The French toast is grilled to a crispy golden brown, and while the melted cream cheese has a gooey consistency that borders on elastic, the desired effect when a piece touches the palate is gratifying relief, a nod to satiation and the carb-induced nirvana. Overall, it is a more sanitary (and improved) rendition of what I would find at the local IHOP.
My partner chooses the hand-battered fried chicken ($9.99) with a side of fresh-whipped mash (herbed and lumpy, definitely not out of the box), corn coblet and a monster-sized dinner roll. His pick seems to be the more inspired choice as dishes of fried chicken appear more or less regularly at many of the tables. Our waitress proudly boasts of “fresh, not frozen” chicken, and while juicy, tender and pretty in presentation, our half of the golden bird falls short in the salt and pepper department. Still, it is a generous serving considering the price rivals breakfast (and thus less heartier) portions.
Anxious for a nibble of Corky’s baked goods, we opt for a slice of the Reese’s Peanut Butter pie, a gooey, two-layer plus mountain of treacle that begins with an Oreo cookie crust, building in height with peanut butter cream cheese and chocolate cream pie layers and a dollop of whipped cream the same depth and width of its individual layers. It’s topped off by chopped pieces of candy, and the quarter slice we receive can justifiably feed a party of three. As it stands, we barely eat through half before wrapping it up a late evening nightcap.
Would I stop again at Corky’s on my way out of BFE? Absolutely, but next trip will probably be for a nice, steaming cup of Joe and a sampling of Corky’s old-fashioned cream pies.
Corky’s Kitchen and Bakery, 3811 Bedford Canyon Rd., Ste. 108, Corona, (951) 735-3100; www.corkyskitchenandbakery.com. Open 24 hours, 7 days a week. AE, D, MC, V.