Greasy-Spoon, Old-School, Family-Run Glory at Daddy's Diner in Marina
February 12, 2013
This would be the special kind of place when the customers talk across booths, the owner-operators are married (and auntie's the lead server) and the best sellers are "loco moco" and SOS.
It's a beautiful, heavy, big-hearted kind of place too, a diner in the best sense of the word and salve to the wounds opened by the evacuation of City Diner from Fremont in Seaside just a few weeks ago.
Daddy’s Diner (883-0817) has been open in Marina behind McDonald’s on Reservation (formerly Bamboo Pavilion and, much more briefly, Yaki Maki) since Feb. 1.
"Loco moco," for the uninitiated, is rice beneath a 9-ounce hamburger patty and three eggs any way ($9.65) and SOS, or "s*** on a shingle," is sausage and hamburger in white cream gravy over a biscuit ($8.50 with eggs and a choice of other accompaniments).
Another big-belly best seller: The Filipino breakfast, with marinated pork (aka tocino), longanisa sausage, fried rice, three eggs ($9.75)....
"Those three plates are running out the door,” co-owner-operator Gina Fajilan reports (she describes herself as "the gopher," her husband Bob as the chef. In addition to City Diner, they've also helped run the kitchen at Ody's Tavern next to Mundaka in Carmel.
Her favorite dish comes off the "Gina Underground Menu": the hot-link fried rice ($5.50).
Other defining dishes: the four-egg omelets like the Ultimate ($9.95) with ham, bacon, sausage, mushroom, green onion and cheddar, which comes with toast or pancakes and either hash browns, country potatoes, grits, fruit or rice; the chicken-fried steak breakfast ($8.75, with two eggs and similar sides as the omelets); the Philly cheese steak sandwich ($9.25); the chicken fajita salad ($8.75); and the value-meal-menu-gem grilled cheese and fries for a tiny $4.25.
She tells me to stay tuned on word of the grand opening and adds that they start serving dinner starts tonight. It'll run 4-8pm Wednesday to Saturday from here, with international theme nights cropping up from time to time.
The amiable group whipped the restaurant together quickly, and have taken to Marina even faster.
"We’ve been welcomed with open arms," Gina says. "It’s like a fmily, everyone knows each other, they're talking across the dining room, and there's a really good, comfortable feeling."
Aunt Ruth's command of the room—“Everybody knows Aunt Ruth—she’s like our Flo [of Mel's Diner],” Gina says—and Bob's refusal to get a bigger freezer, which means almost everything's made from scratch, also bode well for serious staying power.
Another touching touch: The place is named after Gina's recently deceased father, whose 1929 drop-top Ford Hi Boy is the diner’s logo.