It was a breakfast experience one I did not expect to find in California, or for that matter, anywhere in America. After arriving from the East Coast the night before, I was jetlagged, tired, disoriented and hungry. The following morning, I stumbled across Connie’s, nestled in a strip mall, and decided to stop for breakfast.
An energetic and cheerful lady was going to and fro, cooking, taking orders and, in general, making everyone feel at home. This special lady was Connie, the owner. After I placed my order, I could see her in the kitchen preparing what I requested with the help of her son Bill. I then realized that this was not your garden-variety breakfast restaurant. I felt like my mother was making me breakfast, and what a meal it was.
“What a banquet,” I jokingly exclaimed as Connie served me up a plate of bacon, eggs, toast and home fries. We quickly developed a rapport that one would rarely find in chain food eateries. Before leaving, I began referring to her as “mom.”
“Are these ‘real potatoes?’” I asked. She proudly informed me that she cut them up herself. This was a lady that loves what she does, thus prompting my next question.
“What made you open a restaurant?” I asked. “Because I like people,” she responded. It shows! Her current place has been in business for five years, but it is not her first eatery.
That first one was so successful she sold it to a lady who “made me an offer I could not refuse.” However, the new owner saw only the profitability of an establishment, not the faithful clientele that kept returning because it was run by a woman who has heart and cares. It is the personal touch that keeps people coming back. That is what Connie dishes up with every delicious meal.
Perhaps the new owner thought she would increase her revenues by remodeling the restaurant. However, she ended up changing the homey feel that attracted hungry patrons in the first place… What further caused its failure was the fact that Connie did not come with the deal.
The restaurant eventually went belly up, and Connie went on to establish a place named after her in Vista, California.
By the end of the meal, I felt part of the family, and affectionately referred to her as “mom” as he refilled my coffee. I then jokingly asked if she needed help in the kitchen.
“You can wash some dishes if you like,” she quipped. I almost took her up on the offer, but instead decided to record the experience in this article.
As I finished writing, I looked up to find Connie dexterously typing out something on a calculator.
“What are you doing Connie,” I asked, “calculating the tax?”
“Yes,” she said with a smile as she handed me a handwritten bill.
“Do you have an old fashioned cash register in the back also?” I responded. “Yes,” she said with a mischievous smile, but I knew she was only joking.
Before it came time to pay, she brought me a complimentary home-baked cookie of the day. It was but another special touch that makes Connie’s so appealing.
I could not help reflect on my experience at this unique restaurant as I sipped coffee and finished my free cookie. It was a restful reprieve from an industrialized world where most restaurants lack soul. While I was far away from the home cooking my own mother is always willing to provide, Connie’s was a welcome surprise.
This was a classic example of organic society, a concept that is aptly developed in the book, Return to Order, by John Horvat. Finding places like Connie’s is, in fact, what he calls a “Return to Order moment.”
If you find yourself in Vista, California, and are hungry for a home-cooked meal like your mother makes, there is an alternative to the processed breakfast so ubiquitous in our world. Just stop in at Connie’s!