I love every writing assignment I am given but every once in a while I receive an extra perk to an assignment that makes it even more enjoyable.
This week my assignment was to write about The Mangy Moose Café, a mom and pop restaurant located at 506 E. Yosemite Avenue that is supposed to be one of the best breakfast joints in Manteca.
I couldn’t believe my luck: A writing assignment having to do with breakfast food. I love breakfast food, but here’s the thing. I had never been to The Mangy Moose Café so how could I honestly write that it’s one of the best breakfast joints if I’d never been there. Naturally, there was only one thing I could do. I would go to café as an undercover breakfast spy, order some food and find out the scoop for myself.
Walking through the cafe door early Thursday, I was immediately greeted with a warm hello by the cook who was firing up the range and a friendly waitress who handed me a menu as I took my seat at one of the dozen stools at the front counter.
The menu had everything from special omelets stuffed with melted cheese, bacon, chorizo and other goodies, waffles, French toast, country potatoes, pork chops, steak with eggs and more. The list of breakfast food was extensive but what really caught my attention was the front cover of the menu which was coloring done by children — a clear sign that I was in a family establishment. So far I was liking my spy assignment.
I placed my order for Pigs in Blanket while the waitress poured my coffee. Now it was time to observe.
At the end of the counter were two gentlemen who apparently were visiting from Florida. They quickly struck up a conversation with the cook who was busy preparing the food on the other side of the counter. The customers asked him how to pronounce Manteca in which the cook enthusiastically explained that it depended on whether they spoke Spanish or not.
“If you speak Spanish it’s pronounced “Man-tech-a,” if not, then it’s pronounced “Man-teek-a,” either way it means lard.” At that, they all shared a good morning laugh creating that family feel.
Then one of the customers asked the cook, “Are you the owner?”
I was certain that the person who owned the cafe for the past decade, Oscar Quiroz would be somewhere in his office or perhaps coming in later on in the day. I did not in any way expect him to be the one cooking the food. However, to my surprise, the friendly man, working over the hot stove bright and early while chatting it up with the customers was indeed café owner, Oscar Quiroz.
Quiroz chatted a bit more with the two men then had the waitress serve them their food. Whatever it was that they had ordered, I heard their response after taking a few bites, “This food is awesome!”
Upon hearing the compliment, I caught the satisfied look on Quiroz’s face which revealed that pleasing his customers is what it’s all about for him.
I continued to sip my coffee and discreetly watch customers as they trickled in. Each customer was greeted in the same friendly manner. One customer, who was surely a regular received a fist bump from Quiroz on the way to find his seat. As the man got situated, he said out loud for all to hear, “Hey we need to call Kat Country Radio because they are asking people what their favorite breakfast spot is today.” Apparently the The Mangy Moose Cafe is this customer’s favorite.
The atmosphere grew warm and friendly as more customers continued to walk through the door. It was like the Cheers of breakfast spots where everyone knows your name.
What I personally found interesting was that I was purposely giving off a very quiet vibe. Quiroz and the waitress, who I later learned is his daughter managed to respect my apparent desire for quiet while still making me feel very welcomed. It takes some fine-tuned customer service skills to make customers that have chatty vibes and those that don’t all feel comfortable.
As I took in the mom and pop atmosphere, I checked out a few of the signs on the wall. I thought one of the signs described the environment perfectly, Friends, Food & Laughter. That sure seemed to be what was happening at The Mangy Moose Cafe.
Nonetheless the real test would come with my first bite of food. Sure the gentleman at the end of the counter said the food was awesome, but I wasn’t sure how I would like it. I had purposely ordered Pigs in a Blanket because I’m really picky about breakfast sausages and rarely like them when I go out to eat.
I watched as Quiroz as he carefully wrapped three grilled sausages into golden pancakes the size of a dinner plate and when the waitress brought my food, I poured the syrup, grabbed my fork, took a deep breath and dug in. From the very first bite, it was delicious!
My breakfast spy mission was complete. The food was fabulous, the environment welcoming and the service outstanding. As for the reputation of The Mangy Moose Cafe being one of the best breakfast joints in the community? I can now officially say, most definitely!
The Mangy Moose Cafe is open Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Sunday from 7 a.m. to noon. They are closed Mondays. For more information, call (209) 239-1758.