Restaurant (Obituary) of the Week

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THIS RESTAURANT HAS REOPENED. READ UPDATE WRITEUP HERE.

This week’s restaurant: Nancy’s Cafe, 9759 Arrow Route (at Archibald), Rancho Cucamonga.

Crucial note: After I finished a version of this Restaurant of the Week piece Thursday afternoon, a cook at Nancy’s phoned to tell me the restaurant is closing for good FRIDAY, a victim of the economy. That’s TODAY, for most of you reading this. This is a hard blow, and a surprise, because Nancy’s used to always be packed. [UPDATE: I tried to go in for breakfast Friday but at 7:15 a.m. the place was locked and dark, with no sign of life or of explanation.]

Nancy’s was a modest gem, a just-folks diner serving up breakfast and lunch from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. The setting was a small, slightly rundown strip mall behind a Jack in the Box, although the non-Jack restaurants are a foodie’s delight: Guido’s, an Italian deli, and Los Jalapenos, a taqueria, both among the city’s best.

I’ve been eating at Nancy’s for years — infrequently, true, but Nancy’s was always there when I needed it. The cheery interior was stuffed with kitsch, some of it ’50s-themed, much of it related to pigs. There was a tiny pig figurine on a tiny swing suspended from the ceiling in the waiting area, more pig figurines at most of the tables, pigs on the walls, pigs at the cash register.

Breakfast had all the standards, served in big portions. The french toast combo ($7) was especially good, as was the french toast covered in brown sugar and oats, dubbed the Annie Oatley ($7.75). I was also an admirer of the lemon pancakes ($7.75). The sausage here was above-average.

Red Hill Coffee Shop, Brandon’s Diner, Kickback Jack’s and Nancy’s make up the shortlist of Rancho Cucamonga’s best breakfast spots. I like ‘em all, but Nancy’s was my favorite, with the ambience a big plus.

For whatever reason, I’d never tried Nancy’s for lunch until Wednesday. They had a variety of hot and cold sandwiches, salads and even barbecued ham and chicken. I got the meatloaf sandwich ($7), on toasted sourdough, with tomatoes, lettuce and onions, and it was a pretty good version.

My colleague Joe Blackstock advised me to get a burger ($7.25) and ask for it on grilled sourdough. I wasn’t in the mood for that much meat on Wednesday. Oh well.

I thought Nancy’s would always be there for me. But let me salute Frank and Nancy Clark for years of good food, friendly service and goofy kitsch. I’ll miss ‘em.

Anyone have memories of Nancy’s to share?

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  • Marlene

    I believe the close has more to do with divorce than the economy.

    [I wondered about that too. Nancy wasn't there my last two visits and the health inspection card in the window says Frank's Diner, although the menus and everything else still said Nancy's Cafe. -- DA]

  • DAve

    They say the sausage is always the last to know…Zeke’s isn’t on your shortlist?

    [I said it was my Rancho shortlist, and Zeke's is in Ontario. -- DA]

  • greg negrete

    I was planning to take my family there on Sunday. Gee, guess not. I’ve been going there off and on for years. Suppose there should have been more “ons” than “offs.” Thnaks for the update. Greg

    [I hear you about "ons" and "offs." But who knows, maybe it will reopen under a different name. -- DA]

  • Rich Courtright

    You should give a try to Corky’s on Haven next to Trader Joe’s also. Excellent diner spot in Rancho.

    Never got a chance to try Nancy’s. I had seen it, but the location and neighbor weren’t terribly appealing.

    [I'm a Corky's admirer but haven't been there for breakfast. Great pie. -- DA]

  • Paula #1

    Definitely due to divorce, not the economy. Keep your eyes peeled for the ’39 Chevy with the pink fenders, for when you see it, Nancy’s back with the whole gang ready to serve it up for all her friends.

  • Paula #1

    Definitely due to divorce, not the economy. Keep your eyes peeled for the ’39 Chevy with the pink fenders, for when you see it, Nancy’s back with the whole gang ready to serve it up for all her friends.

  • http://danandcheree.com Dan & Cheree

    Great news!

    Spoke with Nancy … she and the crew ARE coming back!!! Monday, April 20 will be the re-Grand Opening. The waitresses we’ve come to know & love will be on duty and the food will be as good as ever. We can’t wait to stop by and support this fun and value-packed tradition. Glad we have a second chance!

  • http://danandcheree.com Dan & Cheree

    Great news!

    Spoke with Nancy … she and the crew ARE coming back!!! Monday, April 20 will be the re-Grand Opening. The waitresses we’ve come to know & love will be on duty and the food will be as good as ever. We can’t wait to stop by and support this fun and value-packed tradition. Glad we have a second chance!

  • Stage Mom

    Oh I already put my leave slip into work for Monday morning (4/20) so I can go to Nancys… oops I mean Dr. Appt LOL

    This will be an event I don’t want to miss out on! I am even hoping there will be a news crew! Oh wait, I forgot we locals want to keep THIS diner one of Rancho’s best kept secrets!
    Economy.”hog”wash!! Now we can be assured of an A rating since “Annie Oatley” cleaned house!!!

  • Ryan

    Nancy’s closed for a while but they are now open again. Nancy closed the diner for divorce purposes and not long after her now ex husband at the time took it over and named it “Frank’s” diner and it went out of business so Nancy won the business in the end of the divorce and now Nancy’s is back open! Go down there and order a nice Annie Oatley, my personal favorite from Nancy’s, Thanks for reading my comment.

    [Well, I knew all that -- I wrote a newspaper column about Nancy's return -- but Ryan uncovered the flaw of a blog, which is that it doesn't go away. I just added a disclaimer to the top that Nancy's has reopened, which I hope clarifies things until I get around to writing a fresh Restaurant of the Week about Nancy's. -- DA]

  • Commander

    IT DEEPLY SADDENS ME TO INFORM ALL OF YOU THAT FRANK WAS KILLED THIS PAST WEEK AS A RESULT OF A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT. ALTHOUGH NANCY AND FRANK WERE DIVORCED, THEY SHARED MANY WONDERFUL MEMORIES, A BUSINESS, AND TWO CHILDREN.

    MAY GOD COMFORT NANCY, FRANK’S FAMILY, THE STAFF AT THE CAFE, AND ALL WHO KNEW HIM.

  • tony barber

    dear david -

    i truly believe that either you ought to take down this blog page, or add an additional one that might supersede this one.

    i was web surfing for nancy’s cafe @ google & among the top pages listed was this one. i was merely trying to determine whether or not nancy’s cafe would be open early enough to grab breakfast before getting my wife to her flight @ ontario airport. i came across a couple ‘city/search/web/yellowpages’ type pages, but then i came to yours. reading the top of your blog, i gave up hope of eating @ nancy’s cafe.

    admittedly i am not a blog reader & thus am inexperienced @ how they work. i brought my wife to her flight in ontario, & then made my way back up archibald to check out nancy’s cafe for myself. who do you suppose was there to greet me, nancy herself.

    nancy’s cafe is open & serving food just as before. there was apparently a brief 3 week closure as alluded to by some of your commentators. it is now called NANCY MAY’S 50′S CAFE, but other than missing frank, all the pigs and 50′s memorabilia & same old menu is still being served up regularly in the same old location just as before. so please restore nancy’s cafe to your regular or irregular dining schedule.

    i only write this because i too am a nancy’s cafe fan. admittedly i am an irregular guest there for breakfast, for i live in san bernardino, & just do not get out that way too often. i just hope that the OBIT BLOG doesn’t discourage customers from frequenting nancy & her cafe. my wife & i ate there this morning & it was very similar to previous breakfasts we have enjoyed there.

    CUTTING TO THE CHASE : NANCY’S CAFE IS ALIVE & WELL AND SERVING GOOD FOOD AS EVER IN ITS ORIGINAL LOCATION STARRING NANCY @ THE HELM UNDER THE NEW NAME- NANCY MAY’S 50′S CAFE – GET THE WORD OUT & GOOD EATING !

    best regards !

    … tony barber/glassblower !

    [It's unfortunate that the "obit" post shows up in the third spot on Google. You may have noticed the phrase "THIS RESTAURANT HAS REOPENED" at the top. Stuff on the Internet doesn't really go away, I'm afraid. I wrote a new Nancy's writeup which shows up at No. 11 on a Google search and will link to it from the "obit" post. -- DA]