I started going to Howard Station Cafe several years ago because I like the drive to Occidental and the drive on Coleman Valley Road. It makes a great driving loop because you end up on Highway 1 and can go through Bodega Bay on the way back to Santa Rosa.
The first time I took the drive I saw the cafe and decided to stop in and try it since it was breakfast time when I arrived in Occidental.
One of the daily specials, on the chalkboard, was a fried egg sandwich which just so happens to be one of my favorite breakfasts.
The sandwich arrived on grilled sour dough with two fried eggs, avocado, cheese, bacon, tomato and lettuce with their home fried potatoes. It was delicious and I was instantly hooked.
If you've read any of my other reviews you know I'm somewhat a creature of habit and over the years I've gone back to eating establishments for certain things I like and Howard Station fried egg sandwich was no exception.
In February we had one of those exceptional winter days when I could put the top down take the drive and stop at the Station for breakfast.
Since I typically dine solo I'm sensitive to a restaurant's need to make money from full tables and not loose seating for a group from one person taking up a table for more and at Howard I wait for the small table for two by the window. After the table was cleared and cleaned seated myself (it is self seating) and a young lady brought me ice water in an old glass milk jug and my utensils in a napkin and a glass. I said good morning to her but she completely ignored me.
Another young lady brought me a menu and I noticed that the egg sandwich had now become one of their special favorites and since it was also mine I ordered it with coffee and the home fried potatoes.
The coffee at Howard Station is excellent and not your run of the mill cafe coffee.
My egg sandwich arrived after a short wait given the cafe was busy. In the past the sandwich came cut in two and this one was not so I proceeded to cut it and discovered it was tough to get through. I thought it might be the bacon but when I took a bite of the sandwich I discovered they had used the heel of the loaf on the bottom piece. I don't know how you feel about the heel, I like it by itself toasted but not on a sandwich, especially one that has a lot of layers to bite and chew through. A minor complaint but since it was put on the bottom a noteworthy one and an indicator that things have changed. And changed they had, gone was the avocado, tomato and lettuce. The sandwich had lost some of its character and lacked the infusion of the various textures created by the now missing items. Still good but not as.
The potatoes are excellent and were even better than I remembered them.
While I was eating a couple sat at a table next to me and a woman who identified herself as the owner greeted them and chatted them up while they were waiting on their food. The whole time her back was to me and when she was done she walked off. Part of the dining experience is a friendly, helpful staff that makes you feel like your a regular whether you are or not and I thought it was rather indifferent of her to not turn around and say hi and introduce herself. It is a simple gesture that goes a long way to gain popularity by word of mouth. The whole time I was there no one came back to ask me how the food was and that is a departure from the past experience.
To sum up I still like Howard Station as a place to stop for good food reasonably priced but the attitude needs to change because the Union Hotel, right next door, is also a great place for food and their staff is very friendly and helpful.
Bring cash as Howard Cafe does not take credit cards.
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