Roady’s Restaurant in Old Town San Dimas is one of those old-time diners where the regulars have their own tables and the servers know most patrons by name and the “usual” they keep coming back for.
The decor is consistent with much of San Dimas’ adopted Old West motif, with wood paneling from ceiling to floor and framed photos of Native Americans covering the walls.
The menu items might be considered dated by some and classic by others, but as far as an all-American diner is concerned, Roady’s checks all the boxes: breakfast is served all day; liver and onions grace the dinner menu; patty melts, tuna melts and a clubhouse sandwich are all options; and there is a pie display up front. Although I only spied two pies during my recent visit, they were also classics –– cherry and apple.
Stephanie Silletta O’Dell has been a regular weekend patron of Roady’s since she and her husband Joe moved to the area in 1991. After their kids’ soccer games, they would head over to Roady’s for Joe’s favorite weekend special, chorizo and eggs.
“All the waitresses knew he liked the chorizo and eggs, so when we would walk in, they would tell him they had one portion left for him,” O’Dell said, fondly recounting her visits to Roady’s.
Only a few of the same waitresses who were working after those weekend games are still there. But O’Dell said they always greeted her with a hug.
“Beverly always had gummy candies in her pocket. She would give them to the kids. Joe and I would do a couple rounds of Powerball, and usually each kid would try the claw machine,” said O’Dell.
Joe passed away in 2008, but O’Dell still visits Roady’s from time to time with friends. Her children are grown and have moved away. She brings her photo album when she visits to show off her grandchildren to the servers who gave gummies to their parents years ago.
I brought my own kiddos into Roady’s last week and let them get hopped up on root beer and hotcakes slathered with syrup and a dollop of whipped cream. Three police officers came in and sat at a table near our booth, and my girls squealed and waved. The officers smiled and waved back.
A worker from San Dimas Coins next door left the shop unoccupied while he sat with friends on the patio, occasionally popping over when a window shopper’s interest was piqued. A few senior citizens enjoyed coffee from red swivel stools that lined the counter.
I enjoyed the corned beef hash and eggs, over-medium with a runny yolk and doused with tabasco sauce, using bites of the accompanying biscuits and gravy to dull the heat. My fiance works in the neighboring town of La Verne, so I ordered a patty melt and potato salad to-go and delivered it to him for lunch. According to him, the patty melt was enjoyable too.
Vanessa Villagran lives around the corner from Roady’s and frequents the diner often enough. She said about four months ago, she was eating at the counter when a couple a few stools over seemed excited. Wanting to know what all the hype was about, she asked the server what was going on. “They just won big on keno — $3,000,” the server said. Naturally, Villagran immediately struck up a game of keno but did not share in the couple’s luck.
The diner’s keno counter is old-timey and quirky in the same way the diner is. There just aren’t many keno counter diners left in Southern California. Just like there aren’t many restaurants that look like the American frontier meets midcentury cafeteria, in a downtown known for selling antiquities from buildings designed to mirror those of the Wild West.
It is not the food that makes Roady’s memorable — the food is standard diner fare. It is the oddball charm of an old-fashioned diner sans the shiny chrome and vinyl kitsch. The nostalgic appeal isn’t put on; it is seemingly just the way it has always been. I don’t think I have ever encountered an establishment that deserves the sentiment quite like Roady’s Restaurant does: they just don’t make ‘em like this anymore.