Allison’s Country Cafe
3429 Telegraph Road, Ventura
Allison’s Country Cafe was one of the first restaurants I visited when I moved to the area nearly 20 years ago. The Midtown Ventura breakfast and lunch spot, which had been a local favorite long before I ever walked through its door, set a high standard. Big, fluffy omelets, tender pancakes, creamy sausage gravy served over to-die-for biscuits — which are equally good with Allison’s famous homemade raspberry jam.
I enjoyed many a good breakfast at Allison’s back in the day. But over time, my lack of time and impatience with crowds led me to avoid it. On any given weekend, you should either get there as close to opening time as possible, or risk an uncomfortably long wait. A testament to the cafe’s enduring popularity, absolutely, but the number of bodies milling around the sidewalk can be discouraging.
So when I had some free time on a recent weekday morning and saw that Allison’s bench out front was uncharacteristically empty, I took my shot. I was grateful for the small booth that had been recently vacated because, even on this mellow Friday, the place was nearly packed. Perusing my menu, I wondered if the great meals I had remembered would still hold up.
In a word: Yes.
Like the best breakfast houses, Allison’s menu has multiple ways to tempt you. Craving carbs? Seven different kinds of pancakes (including a few healthy options), plus waffles and French toast. Omelets? Choose from the numerous house creations, or build your own. Country favorites such as corned-beef hash and sausage and gravy (both locally famous) sit beside a variety of Mexican-inspired options. Half the menu is devoted to sandwiches, salads and burgers, too, but truth be told, I don’t know many people who have lunch at Allison’s — breakfast is this cafe’s stock in trade.
After much deliberation, I went with a breakfast burrito, which features eggs, potatoes, beans, cheese, guacamole, sour cream and your choice of meat — that’s a lot of food to wrap in a large tortilla! I asked for pork chile verde, which I was dying to try even though it wasn’t technically an option, and the waitress included it in my order without batting an eye. I’m sure chorizo, sausage, bacon and ham make for good burritos, too, but for myself, I’m sticking with the pork, which was wonderfully tender with the perfect balance of citrus and spice. Another tip: Ask for your burrito wet, so you can have it smothered in Allison’s delicious red tomatillo sauce, which packs just enough heat to make your tastebuds tingle.
My husband ordered the steak and eggs, because he likes his beef, and because we wanted a dish that came with biscuits. Nothing fancy, but the steak was cooked to order and tasted great, the eggs over easy were perfect and the generous portion of hash browns were as crispy and golden brown as any potato lover could wish.
Anyone who has eaten at Allison’s knows that the star of the show is the biscuit. Enormous (ridiculously so, frankly, but I’ll take it), soft, fluffy, the perfect shade of golden brown on top. And a wonderful vehicle for Allison’s gravies or jam. All in all, probably too much food. (Did I mention the portion sizes? Because they are huge.) But that’s why to-go boxes were created, after all.
After a long hiatus, my return to Allison’s reconfirmed the high opinion I’ve always had of the place. The service continues to be friendly and efficient, the menu expansive, the food delicious. There’s a reason this unassuming spot in an out-of-the-way location has been going strong for decades, and lands on various “Best Breakfast” lists time and time again. As we headed home with our jam (available by the jar) in hand, we decided that we’d brave the crowds and the wait for a return trip sometime soon. When food is this good, you just can’t stay away.