Best of Dinerwood- Goody's
(originally posted on Dinerwood January 25, 2010)
Goody's: The end...
I'm not a journalist. I'm a blogger. Even worse, I'm a FOOD blogger. I'm never in the position to really "report" anything...until today.
The sign was out. We didn't think much of it. Signs are often out at restaurants, although usually it's not the whole sign--just a letter or two or three (there's a "E Poll co" near where we live). The sign was out and the sign will be out forever. Last night was the last night at Goody's Restaurant. We didn't know that when we walked into the beautiful wood paneled diner. A sweet looking, matronly waitress greeted us and told us to sit anywhere. We slid into a plush booth near the front, although just about anywhere would be "near the front" of Goody's. It's really not that big. It was a quiet night at Goody's with more staff on-hand than there were patrons to serve when we first sat down. #1 Diner Companion Antoinette and I were customers 4 and 5 at 7pm and it would max out at 10 while we were there. Business was slow.
I instantly fell in love with the mascot of Goody's. This beleaguered looking chef hanging on the wall and an even more down-trodden looking version adorning the menu.
I loved that the menu had almost a greeting card quality in its message to the patron. "To serve you is a real pleasure" may not be all that different from any other menu's promises, but the paragraph below it seemed sincere and noble. It reminded me of a Father's Day card I got my dad once. Its message was that, although I may have forgotten to say thank you all those times, know that I do. There's a kindness and familiarity in the message on that menu.
The menu itself is very small, only two pages. Slightly over 50 items if you count all the sides and drinks separately. They have a selection of a few hamburgers, a few sandwiches, a few salads, a few dinners, a few breakfasts, a hodge-podge of other items, just like a true diner. In some ways, a small menu may makes things harder because you are jumping to different categories. Do you want eggs or do you want a sandwich? They are nothing alike so you really have to weigh the differences. A more extensive menu will make you hone in by section. Do you want pancakes? What kind? Buttermilk, buckwheat, stuffed, strawberry, banana, silver dollar or flapjack, with whipped cream or not? It can be daunting. We ordered coffee to start while we decided. It was then that our waitress told us the news, which I am now passing on to you. Goody's was closing. After fifty years in this beautiful building, they were closing their doors. The landlord was raising the rent and the owner was moving on. And it was sad. Antoinette and I had stumbled into not just witnessing a bit of history, but being a part of it. The neighborhood and the economy had changed. Was there no room for Goody's in San Gabriel? It is no doubt that in a few short months a new pho or dim sum place would open in this building. Now, I love pho and I love dim sum but you know what Las Tunas Avenue doesn't need? More pho and dim sum. Goody's was winning us over already based on more than just sympathy. How would it fare with the coffee test though? Well, okay. It did poorly on that front. It was bitter and had clearly been sitting on the burner for too long. Antoinette traded hers in for tea. I soldiered on and I must say that after that initial cup, fresher coffee was made and was much better. Antoinette ordered the Chicken Pot Pie with a salad and side of green beans. I ordered the "Dutch Treat" with spicy red cabbage.
The bread was a small, fresh baked loaf that tasted amazing. So good, in fact, we took three loaves home. The salad was simple bag salad.
The green beans were canned with some bacon and onions added. Now foodies, let me speak on this. Do not fault Goody's for using canned green beans. This place is a straight, traditional diner that uses short-cuts when necessary. It's like lambasting a ramen restaurant for having a "C" rating. It's doing it right by doing it "wrong."
The chicken pot pie plate looked amazing. The mashed potatoes were good and the gravy was probably some of the best brown gravy I have had in a very long time--salty and rich and perfect. The pie itself had a nice flaky crust and was also delightfully rich with large chunks of chicken.
The Dutch Treat was quite good. The sandwich was nice and thick with good quality ham sliced incredibly thin and layered with Swiss cheese. It could go toe-to-toe with any Canter's deli sandwich (although the pickle wasn't as good). The french fries were standard restaurant fries and therefore good...enough. The "spicy" red cabbage was interesting. It wasn't "spicy" it just had a strong bite from the vinegar, but was still tasty. Goody's definitely won us over truly with the food. It was hearty American diner food that delivered comfort and deliciousness. As we were eating, patron number 10 arrived: an older gentleman who sat down at a booth kitty corner to us. The waitress commented that she thought he hated that booth. He shrugged and said "Might as well." He ordered coffee and a slice of pie. I want to be that old man when I'm an old man.
Our pie options were limited to two by this time of night: chocolate cream and custard. We split a slice of chocolate. I have to say, chocolate cream pie is probably my least favorite pie. At its best, it tastes like really good Jell-O pudding on a flaky crust and at its worst, it tastes like off-brand pudding on a piece of crap. This was a good piece of pie. Talking more with our waitress, we learned a bit more of the history of Goody's. The current owner, Salvador, started at Goody's as a busboy at the age of 14. He moved up to being a baker and then eventually bought the restaurant. It's the American dream. Sadly, he couldn't afford to buy the land and now Goody's was closing...at least at this location. The owner is already hard at work building a new Goody's just down the road in El Monte. Next to the courthouse and the city hall, Goody's will live again. The story does have a happy ending, although I can't imagine what its like to look at the building you grew up in and have to walk away. I suppose, though, that someone else will be living their own version of the American Dream when the building reopens as a noodle bar or Vietnamese sandwich shop. You have one last chance to see the original Goody's location in all its diner glory today, 1-26-2010. They will be serving breakfast and lunch and possibly even dinner for the last time. I would call ahead since our waitress said they will most likely close early today.
The story took an interesting twist when the original Goody's location reopened--not as a restaurant like I thought, but as a sporting goods store. Jeff's a local store moved into the location. They kept the front counter and blessedly kept the googie sign--just changing it from a Goody's to Jeff's and painting it green.