Zeke’s Eatin’ Place, 1855 E. 4th St. (at Vineyard), Ontario
Zeke’s has been a block or so from our newsroom during my entire Bulletin tenure, but it took me a while to get there, the name Zeke’s Eatin’ Place being kind of an eye-roller. I had a decent breakfast there a few years ago, which raised my opinion of the restaurant, and promptly forgot the whole thing.
For a recent breakfast meeting with three Ontario cops, they picked Zeke’s, a longtime favorite of the department, at least its older members. I was happy to give the place a try in the company of some admirers.
It’s breakfast and lunch only, closing at 3 p.m., and the motif is Wild West, with John Wayne and Clint Eastwood portraits, lots of wood and the deepest booths I’ve ever seen, able to fit six, or maybe eight. The menu has a hokey story about a fictional miner named Zeke, which is sort of charming, actually. Imagine, a diner with a concept that’s more 1850s than 1950s.
Biscuits and gravy are a specialty, but that’s not my thing. I had two eggs, sausage links and home fries ($6.15); others had the breakfast sandwich ($5.79), chicken fried steak and home fries ($7.35) and, for the cop with a cast-iron stomach, the chili cheese onion omelet ($8.09).
Everybody pronounced themselves pleased, although I would warn you away from the sausages, dinky things that looked fresh from the supermarket freezer. Zeke’s is known for its wagon wheel-size pancakes. As stated here about Guasti Homestyle Cafe, I’m not a “big breakfast” guy, but if you are, Zeke’s portions should satisfy you. Besides, it’s a homey place.
The cops told me Zeke’s has been around since the early 1980s, beginning in the shopping plaza at 4th and Grove before moving a few blocks east to 4th and Vineyard in the 1990s.
Lunchtime sandwich offerings on the menu made me think I should hit them up, so I’ve since returned for a meatloaf sandwich. It was only okay, but the fries were above average, and the service was friendly. The waitress even called me sweetheart a few times. You gotta love that. Zeke’s isn’t spectacular, but it’s a nice regular-folks place.