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Feb 8, 2005 12:42 AM

The Alley Café – Pinole - $2.75 Soup/Sandwich Combo

  • k

The Alley Café is frozen in time. It is what I remember when I think of the good coffee shops of the past.

The food is simple with all the breakfast standards, burgers and sandwiches. The prices are reasonable and the coffee is good. The soup is house made and so are the huge biscuits which you can order with gravy.

There are items I haven’t seen in years like cinnamon toast and fried egg sandwiches.

You can get linguica or German Sausage with breakfast or on a French Roll for lunch.

An item I have never seen was a French toast Sunday … French toast, topped with cinnamon, sugar and ice cream.

Other interesting items were Chicken fried steak, a torpedo sandwich (no clue), and a bacon and Grilled Cheese sandwich …. Mmm great idea … bacon … kick that fat level up a notch.

The table next to me ordered oatmeal which was a large bowl of oatmeal generously mixed with raisins ($3).

There’s nothing extraordinary about the food, just honest tasty grub at a great value. As fancy as it gets is there are less common flavors of Smuckers Jelly, like apple cinnamon.

The soup and sandwich however was like a snap shot of old time coffee shop food right down to the condiments. In the bag with the soup were packets of Morton’s salt and pepper with the picture of the girl with the umbrella, Sunshine Krispy Crackers and Heinz catsup.

With tax, soup and sandwich was $2.98 … how do you even tip on that? I liked the split pea with ham soup which was satisfying and not too salty. Grilled cheese was American on two slices of buttered white bread. On the side were iceberg lettuce, two very good thick tomato slices and pickles. What a deal.

I had breakfast one morning and for $7.75 I had unlimited coffee, a German sausage omelet with hash browns and a huge, fluffy house made biscuit. Everything is huge. Although I really liked the food, I just could not finish it. I felt really bad about leaving half that biscuit.

They address the size of the portions by charging an extra $2 to share or $1.50 for an extra plate (I guess you split the food in that case). At lunch I saw plates with good sized burgers and a generous serving of fries.

You can order half an omelet, which I thankfully did. It still comes with a full portion of hash browns which are perfect, freshly shredded, fluffy and buttery on the inside, crispy and golden brown on the outside. They covered half the plate.

There is a 20 seat lunch counter that wraps around the cooking area. There are comfy wooden booths and tables. Someone is a Giants fan. There is a Giants clock, a poster of the new stadium and quite a few signed pictures of Giants players on the walls.

A mural lines another wall of San Pablo’s downtown in earlier times. In the mural a market has a sign advertising 24 oz of Wesson Oil for 29 cents and Challenge butter for 69 cents. Ceiling fans lazily turn.

Located in Old Town Pinole. From San Pablo, turn on Tenant Street toward the church. Pear Street is right across from St. Joseph’s Church.

The Alley Café
2265 Pear St
Pinole, CA 94564

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  1. You really sold me with the description of the hash browns. My mouth is watering.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Well, like I said ... fine if you are in the neighborhood, but not worth a trip.

      Actaully it might be margarine rather than butter in the hash browns. It tasted like butter to me, but the biscuit came with a scoop of margarine instead of butter.

      When I get the time, I'm going to post about Valerio Bakery which is sort of in that neck of the woods. When looking up other posts about this place on Chowhound, I was surprised to see that your first post was about Valerio and International Marketplace.

      With your restaurant / food savy, I always thought you were one of the original pups in the Chowhound litter.

      Melanie was right predicting that the Fast Food place next door would fold. Gone.

      1. re: Krys

        I don't get out that way much anymore, so thanks for picking up the chowquest there. That area is seriously under-reported -- I suspect there are some gems that have gone unnoticed.

        BTW, with your expertise in Salvadorean food, have you tried Kaliente yet?


        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Thanks. I don't remember seeing it. One place has this sign for some sort of roast (I think) Mexican chicken in El Sobrante. I keep meaning to stop and check it out.

          I'll keep an eye open Kaliente. My pupusa crawl last summer really burnt me on pupusas. It may be a while before I try one again (ditto donuts). However, I'm always up for a good pastelito. I'd like to see if their version is as good as one I tried on Mission Street. Can always go for a good soup, but, for some reason Salvadorean soups I've had don't seem to measure up to a good Mexican soup. However, I'm always hoping.

          I know i should change the title of this post, but I keep hopeing SOMEONE will report about the Pinole restuarnts.

    2. They have monster pancakes there. A single pancake is about the size of a dinner plate and twice as thick if I remember correctly. I'ved never finish a whole one.

      Very hearty food.

      Ahhhh....the good ol' days of cutting school to have breakfast.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Pinolean

        Oh my goodness, an actual person from Pinole. I asked this a while back and got no response. What other places do you like in Pinole?

        Other than Alley Cafe, the only other thing I've eaten is a bear claw at Tbe Bear Claw Bakery. Is there anything else at the bakery you like. How's the sandwiches? How's the pie?

        Is Giovanni’s house made sausage any good? How is the Italian food there?

        What is the Pinole Creek Café like?

        Opinions on Pear Street Café, Moon Doggies hot dogs, Blackies burgers, Antlers

        Any other suggestions? What are your recommended dishes at any of these?