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April 14, 2010 > Restaurant Review: All American fare at Country Way

Restaurant Review: All American fare at Country Way

By Shavon Walker

Country Way is a small, often crowded restaurant, with a friendly wait staff and good service. Booths line the walls with tables in the center for larger groups. Advertisement of the day's specials can be found throughout the restaurant, starting with the sign on the door ("Try our Bloody Mary mimosa, served all day!") to the sign under the register inviting diners to try their delicious chili. This is the setting for home cooking... comfort food; families bring their half-awake toddlers and fully grown college students here for a good meal.

Our waitress, Melanie, greeted us with a smile and helped with our menu choices. At Country Way, substitutions are perfectly acceptable; when my husband and I asked for strawberry pancakes and French toast with our specials, Melanie didn't blink an eye. Our food arrived no more than fifteen minutes after we ordered. Now that's FAST! An added bonus: when Melanie put our plates down, she quipped, "See, service with a smile!" I thought she was talking about her own sunny visage, but when I looked at my plate, I realized that she had drawn a whipped cream face over my pancakes. The five year old in me approved.

Be sure to be hungry when visiting Country Way; when our food arrived, the pancake and French toast portions were so large they had to be served on separate plates. And not only did it look good, but tasted even better. The scrambled eggs, which I normally dislike eating in restaurants, were perfect and the sausage was even better. My adorable pancakes not only looked like they would be part of a great experience, but tasted fantastic. Sliced strawberries in a sauce were fresh and not too sweet. At Country Way, you won't find a gelatinous red goo that passes for strawberry topping at some restaurants.

Theodore Matheou, George Matheou, and Peter Giourousis, opened Country Way in 1978. "We used to serve the kids in high chairs. Now their children are bringing their kids in high chairs," joked Theodore Matheou, the owner on duty. Matheou came to the US in 1973, and started as a dishwasher. He was intrigued by the ability of restaurant chefs to handle the demands of cooking a variety of dishes for a high volume of customers. He became adroit at meal preparation and learned how to give customers the quality they deserve when dining out. One of the most important values in the Country Way kitchen is that whatever is served must meet the highest personal standards of those preparing the food. "Customers deserve respect." he said. "If someone comes 10, 20, 40 miles to eat here, you show them respect."

He also noted his love of American food as the reason for opening Country Way. Basic American food uses less sauces and toppings than other ethnic foods; chefs must use quality ingredients. "If the ham isn't good, you can taste it," he said. "Quality is the main thing. This is the best country in the world. I love this country." Soups are made from scratch daily. No chemicals and artificial flavors are used. Customers favor Country Way's practices and show it by dining there over and over again. The restaurant serves 700 people a day and has served almost 9 million to date. A solid work ethic has served Country Way well for the past 32 years; it extends to all operations. At least one owner is on the premises at all times. Asked why he doesn't just hand the reins over to a manager, Matheou shook his head. "If I want my business to be good, I have to be here." He oversees supplies and stock during his shift, and resolves any problems personally.

Customers appreciate owner involvement at Country Way and it's obvious. One man stopped by our table to shake Matheou's hand on the way out while another told us they served the best clam chowder ever. The combination of respect and communication extends to the wait staff. Everyone was helpful and friendly; our waitress was quick to praise her job. "I like it," said Melanie. "I'm a people person. This is what I do."

Good food, good service, and comfy decor - this is what Country Way is all about. If you're craving comfort food and lots of it, come on over and get your fill. You certainly won't regret it.

Reviewed April 9, 2010

Country Way Restaurant
5325 Mowry Ave., Fremont
(510) 797-3188

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