by Terrance Mc Arthur
Our roving food critic Terrance Mc Arthur continues his search for great food in Sanger and the surrounding communities. Check out more Great Food Search here! Due to some computer issues, this column is a week later, but hey better late than never.
It was November, and the Great Food Search was getting desperate. What to review? What to review? Was there some new style of food to discover, an exciting restaurant opening, or any idea that hadn’t been beaten to death? I needed to feed my wife and not travel too far. I drove to the spot where leaving Sanger becomes going to Clovis–Shaw and Academy, and there, in a micro-mini-strip mall, is The Red Caboose Café.
Formerly The Little Red Caboose (when it was located at Bullard and Minnewawa in Clovis) the now-north-of-Sanger establishment combines restaurant, bar, al fresco dining, and musical entertainment with model trains. It’s a friendly place, where you can see grandparents meeting the grandkids, guys arguing politics, and someone talking about buying a calf. Look overhead and you can watch a locomotive pulling cars promoting local businesses in a lazy figure-eight. Look down, and see if you can figure out which advertisements on the tables are for places that are now out of business. On evenings in the weekend, go up a step and out a door to the tented-in patio area where musicians play mostly country music.
THE FOOD: Dinner
Don’t expect micro-cuisine at The Red Caboose. You’re in for some good-ol’, down-home cooking–breakfasts, sandwiches, some basic dinner entrees, and pizza.
My wife loves meatloaf, and she says the meatloaf ($12.99) is what the memory tells you meatloaf is supposed to be: well-seasoned, juicy, and with a gravy that never knew the inside of a can. On the side are fresh green beans, succulent and sprinkled with bits of thick, delectable bacon. The clam chowder had clams in every spoonful. The mashed potatoes were really real and lovingly lumpy. She liked the dish better than the famous meatloaf at the School House Restaurant, because of the farmhouse flavor.
I chose the Buzzard Junction ($9.79), grilled chicken with mushrooms and Jack Cheese on Sourdough, with Honey Mustard for dipping and a long pickle spear, and a Beef Barley soup that redefined “hearty.” The cheese was slowly oozing from between the bread slices like a Hawaiian lava flow, and chicken was tender, with cheerful mushrooms saying “Take me, I’m yours.”
THE FOOD: Dessert
We talked to Teresa, the owner, and she suggested we try the Cherry Pie, a new dish on the menu—so new that the servers didn’t know about it! Yummy, yummy, yummy! Flaky crust, fruity filling: who could ask for more?
I could! I asked for the Chocolate Brownie Sundae, a mass of ice cream with whipped cream, friendly mini-brownie-cakes and drizzled toppings. Somehow, I finished it!
THE FOOD: Breakfast(s)
We enjoyed dinner so much that we returned (twice) for breakfast. The Steamer ($10.79) is an omelet filled with turkey, mushrooms, and Swiss Cheese, with avocado on top. Scrumptious and desirable, and I was so captivated that I didn’t even notice the biscuits and gravy sitting by my elbow. My wife finally reminded me that they were there and oh so light and tasty, and oh what a gravy that they have to keep a mammoth pot of on the stove!
Eggs Benedict ($10.25) and Two Eggs with Corned Beef Hash ($9.29) are also stellar dishes on the menu. Of course, the side choices are all worth trying. The hash browns are hot, but not too crunchy. The Cottage Fries are crisp on the outside and soft inside. The pancakes fill the plate and are incredibly thick, but they are thoroughly cooked, not doughy.
Go! Eat! Be Happy!
The Red Caboose Café is a great place to sit and talk, to slide back into a slower style of life, and to eat really good stuff! The café is at 5054 N Academy Ave. Exd #E. Hours are Monday to Wednesday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Thursday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.; Sunday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., and 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Call 297-9545, or go online to www.redcaboosecafe.com.
Check out more food articles and more of Terrance’s Great Food Search column in our Food Fun section.