The Dispossessed

Eddie Fong closed his restaurant on Monday, and his regulars are bereft. All week long they’ve been wandering around town looking for a place to have breakfast, but there’s no place like Eddie’s, never has been and never will be again.

I was an Eddie’s regular, once removed. In truth, my brother was the Eddie’s guy, and I was allowed a pass into the inner circle because of him. Without that pass, Eddie’s could be a rather intimidating place to eat. Eddie ran a restaurant with good food (heavenly corned beef on Thursdays, best in town) and an attitude that was all his own. If you didn’t like anything about him or his place, he had no hesitation whatsoever about swearing at you until your ears hurt and then throwing you out. (Banishment to the Tower Cafe across Broadway was considered akin to being sent to hell for any Eddie’s regular.)

On my own, without the protection of my brother, I once took a friend to Eddie’s. “Hey, Eddie,” I said. “This is my friend Keith.”

“What the fuck do I care?” snarled Eddie. Keith was delighted. A genuine Eddie’s experience!

And that’s the thing. If you walked into Eddie’s thinking you were in a regular restaurant, you were already in deep trouble. After a minute or two one of the regulars would suggest you just find yourself a table, help yourself to a menu and wait for Eddie to notice you. In fact, he always noticed everyone right away, but how quickly he got around to you depended on how busy he was and a complex set of other factors that weren’t obvious to the untrained observer.

Regulars sat on the outside ring of tables; newbies on the inside. That way, the regulars got a good view of the proceedings on those occasions when one of the newbies screwed up and got sworn at for trangressions large (special orders) and small (asking for a fork).

In the early days I was so afraid of Eddie that I waited in the parking lot for my brother before going inside. I never recommended Eddie’s to anyone because he wasn’t everyone’s cup of coffee (which the regulars got on their own). He had enough customers, and we all understood the special place we had and the special friend that was Eddie. But it was always a matter of time before Eddie would get pissed off enough at something to shut it all down, and we knew it. He says he’s going to get a “real job,” one that would require a mere five days a week of work, not seven. But we all hope that after a while he’ll be back in a new location.

Why? Because Eddie Fong is a total mensch. He is there for all his friends, and when you are one of them you have never known a person more generous and stalwart. Eddie catered my folks’ 50th anniversary party, and he attended my friend’s mother’s funeral. He gave me corned beef leftovers for breakfast on Fridays, off the menu, because he knew I loved them. For more than a decade he allowed my brother a prime corner table, a newspaper and an endless supply of Diet Coke for as long as he wanted it, even when it was crowded and people were waiting. And he told my dad he couldn’t have gravy on his breakfast because he was too fat.

Eddie is the only person I know who could say something like that to my dad, who himself is a bit of a crusty character.

Framed and matted on the wall of Eddie’s was a napkin. “You are the rudest person ever!” was scrawled on it. “This is the worst restaurant we have ever been to!! We will never be back again!!!”

The idea of never going back to Eddie’s is breaking my heart , even as my brother wanders Broadway looking for the endless supply of Diet Coke and community that was Eddie’s, and will never be again.

18 thoughts on “The Dispossessed”

  1. Wow. What a cool story. Thanks for this eulogy of such an interesting place. Obviously by my saying so I was not a regular or even a one-time visitor to the place. But I wish I had been! I wonder what else I’m missing out there in Sac while drinking my sangria at Tower… Sorry about losing your fav place FP.


  2. A few years ago I took a friend to Eddies on the way home from her post-op visit for laser eye surgery. Her vision was miraculously perfect and she was giddy. Eddie came over to take our order, she could not contain her euphoria.

    She gushed at Eddie, “I want lots of coffee and the biggest OJ you have.”

    “I don’t give a shit, I’m taking god damn breakfaast orders now.” he snapped.

    “Oh, pancakes.” she said.

    Eddie took a beat and in the most cheerfully solicitous tone said, “OK, now how about a beverage?”

    Eddie’s shots were at high velocity but they had no anger in them, that’s why they didn’t hurt.
    Eddie’s restaurant was also the only place you could get 2 scrambled, sausage patties and FRIED RICE.


  3. what part of “coffee and OJ” is not a breakfast order?

    sometimes being a jerk for no reason is not endearing, it’s just being a jerk.


  4. Yep, sometimes a jerk IS just a jerk. But not Eddie — he’s the proverbial “heart of gold” guy. He just doesn’t have a whole lot of patience for the general public, I guess you could say. Not in HIS treehouse, anyway. And he tells a joke like nobody’s business. (All off-color, of course!) Great laugh, too.

    It’s guys like Eddie who make a city. Otherwise it’s nothing but Applebees.

    Oh no … I’m gonna start sniffling again …


  5. Wow, someone actually referenced the Market Club. I first went there in ther late 1970’s as a kid. That place has been open since at least the 1950’s. Early Mornings there used to be chaos.

    Great story about Eddie Fong. Not too many places left like this where working class folks can break bread without pretentiousness or the McChain factor filling the air.


  6. Eddie’s was a place just like home. He even gave a hard time to his regulars if they didn’t know the drill or forgot the drill.
    As for Market Club, I went there (forced to go) and don’t like going there, because I’m not used to waiting that long for a table and the food there is is okay and we paid more for so so food. Besides, there’s no “ambience” there, like there is at Eddies!!! How often do you have an Attorney serving up coffee?
    I feel as if I’ve lost a big part of my life as many of us do, because he was a friend, a social life (he always got everyone together for concerts or theatre) or someplace just to go and hang out. It was such a family place and I felt like part of the family. I’m hoping that he will be opening up something because he was “One of a Kind”. I know that it is a lot of work, but being selfish, I want someplace to go to eat and socialize on weekends, weekdays and just to talk.
    I know that there were many tears, including my own when we found out about Eddie’s closing. I think until he opens something else up, we will all be wandering around Sacto, to find somewhere else to take his place, which I know, will never happen, until I see another “Eddie’s” Sign hanging up on another site.


  7. I started going to Eddie’s six or seven years ago. On the weekends I would meet my brothers and friends there for coffee and sometimes a meal. Five years ago I retired, and had been going there virtually every morning for the last five years weekends and hoildays included. Eddie was there no matter what day it was, he wrapped his Christmas presents for his family on Christmas morning over coffee. I told Eddie, ‘you are putting a lot of people out on the street’. It is mostly early morning old guys like me and a bunch of SacPD, CHP and Sheriff’s officers changing shifts that have been displaced. I’m not sure there are that many places open at 5 a.m. Maybe we will get lucky and Eddie will open up another place. I sure hope so!!!


  8. Eddie is a great friend of mine. For me, there is NO replacement for Eddie’s. It was an institution that will be missed by a hell of a lot of people….perhaps by me more than anyone else. Eddie’s clientele came from all walks of life. Eddie treated everyone the same. He especially hated it when someone would come in claiming to know so and so and would produce a nasty look and a vulger comment. Admittedly, Eddie has a LOT of personality and that makes him a jerk in some peoples’ opinion, but it just makes him Eddie to me.

    There is no place to grab a 5:00am cup of coffee before hitting the road. Eddie’s was my home away from home.

    I met Eddie at his first restaurant location some 11 years ago. I was INSTANTLY hooked and almost overnight became a “regular.” We were building my house, at the time, and my father-in-law (Richard) and I would start our days there at 5:00am or earlier. In the early days Eddie was “in the house” from 4:30am to 10:00pm. What a GREAT time we had!!

    I made a lot of good freinds over the years at Eddie’s, realtionships that will last forever. In the beginning we had one thing in common. Eddie.

    I loved going to Eddie’s. I went there on a daily basis for the better part of 11 years. I wish Eddie the best of luck in whatever he chooses to do. Selfishly, I hope he decides to open EDDIE’S II in the near future.

    Eddie – If you read this: Thanks for the years of entertainment and all of the memories. I wish you luck in whatever you choose to do.


  9. Yes, sometimes a jerk is just a jerk. But not Eddie. He truly has a heart of gold. He talks big and nasty, but I wonder if most of it was just to give us regulars some entertainment. That’s right, we, on the “outer rim” watched with amusement (some of us wiped our forehead every time he kicked someone out, “whew…thank God that’s not me!” Other times, we sympathized, as some of us had just as rough a time breaking in. And eventually you do. At least some of you.

    But here is what no one has mentioned: The busy Saturday morning and a family was ordering breakfast. One of the kids was cranky, only wanted McDonalds, just miserable and making everyone else miserable. One would expect Eddie to show some angry “Eddie charm” only in a child-size dose, but instead, here’s what he did: He had someone from the kitchen run over to McDonalds, pick something up, and place it on a plate with a dome cover–like room service. He brough it out to the creepy kid, and watched the absolute amazement of everyone. It made the kids day. Hell, it made everyone’s.

    Here’s another one: My first Eddies experience was at at time when he was open for dinner. I’d had a lingering illness for two solid weeks–nothing horrible, just miserable. The smell of food gave way to waves of nausea, but I was so damn hungry. I asked if he had any mashed potatoes, needing something bland but filling. He said no (nicely) and I told him that I’d just have a bit of rice. He disappeared into the kitchen, only to return, producing a freshly made batch of not just mashed potatoes, but FRIED into perfect, golden cakes. Manna. He was the gentlest, kindest soul at that moment, and many times to come, that for me, means the world. He went on to teach me how to cook eggs and grill baby back ribs. Simple? Not for me. But now I’m the queen.

    One day I was sitting by myself in the corner, a bit out of sorts having just broken up with the person who introduced me to Eddies. Not knowing if he would walk in, all awkward & angry, when Eddie sits to chat for a sec. He asks me what’s up, and I tell him that we’ve broken up. He says, “GOOD!” which surprised me, as he’d never talked shit about him. (I mean, the guy was a mean person, but how did Eddie know???) Right then, a couple of guys I knew show up and sit at the bar. They wave me over, and in the time it takes me to pick up my purse & sweater, Eddie has beelined it over to them, he’s already told them about my breakup, and they are high-fiving all around by the time I walk the 10 steps to the bar. Mike yelled, “GOOD NEWS TRAVELS FAST!” And a brand new chapter in my life was already being written a few short moments. An era that has just ended. And I can’t stop crying.

    So “FUCK YOU! I’M A REGULAR AT EDDIES!” to all of you who balk at the most unique, comforting place I’ve ever had the pleasure of being. And I’ll gloat: I loved never ordering off a menu. I loved having the judge next to me bus not only his table, but mine as well, or vice versa. I loved hanging out in the kitchen with Sal, Harv, Kristine & Claudia. I love them. I love Eddie’s laugh. If that can’t bring a smile to your face, nothing will. I loved when he shushed everyone when Martha Stewart was on the TV. I loved how kind he was to kids.

    BEING is what you were there. Walking into the place at lunch during a hard day at work, you hear people GREET you–people who’s last names you don’t know and now never will. I have never hugged and been hugged so much as when I was there. Being a girl in the midst of a LOT of men makes that no surprise, but it was, everyday.

    To all you regulars whose last names I never knew, and to those of you whose names I never did know but we nodded, waved, hugged in hello–I MISS YOU! I am so very sad…

    And I never got to sit at the round table…#$*(%^


  10. There was a Cosby show just like that McDonald’s story where Bill Cosby took the kids out for a fancy lunch and Rudy and her friends rebelled because there were croutons on the salad and the hamburgers were too fancy so the restaurant owner served them fast food. Who’s with me? Why am I still thinking about the Cosby show?


  11. HeyMeg, do you remember when Claire Huxtable & the kids were pretending they were cooking Cliff’s favorite dinner for his birthday, then they really just served him pizza, and he was so bummed until they took him to his favorite nightclub where they sat at Lena Horne’s personal table? That’s almost as good (I’d imagine) as sitting at the round table at Eddie’s.

    Should you ever encounter Malcolm Jamal Warner in person, don’t dare call him “Theo.” Apparently he really hates that.


  12. True story: Mrs. Cool and I once attended an “open mic poetry night” at some coffee bar in L.A. in about 1998. Our host? TV’s own Malcolm Jamal Warner. Between introducing the acts he spun his own brand of verse which was rich with double entendre along the lines of “and then the girl was blowing….my mind.” It was, how shall I put it, awk-waaard! It was tough not to see good old Theo up there, waxing poetic.


  13. Everytime my husband and I drive by Theodore Judah school it sets us off on a round of Theo Huxtable impersonations until we hit the nearby Meister avenue which sets us off on saying “the Meister” from that old Saturday Night Live sketch. The point being that Theo is alive and well in our memories. And that we are motor mouths.


  14. Talk about late to the party…

    I no longer live in Sacramento, but was once a “regular”. Had to be a regular to order the “house”.

    Met Eddie calling bingo, when our kids were at McClatchy high school. He asked if he could call first, because he had to get up early to work at a restaurant. We called together for several weeks, and I finally asked where his restaurant was, and he told me. I asked what he did there, and he said “I cook, wait tables, and whatever”, with no more pretense than if he had been the window washer.

    When I asked the name, and he replied “Eddie’s”, asked, “Is that Eddie’s as in you being THE Eddie?”, his response was again as simple and as humble as one gets.

    His “style” grew over years, partly because the regulars loved it and egged him on. At the same time he’d willingly be the butt of the joke as well. A newcomer came in, and aske if the food was good. Eddie turned to a regular an asked him. The regular replied, “Hell no!”. When asked why he came, the regular said because it was cheap. Eddie never batted an eye, and none of us let on that it wasy anything but the truth. The newvbie left without ordering, and the laughter was lead by Eddie.

    I also saw him regularly serve breakfast to a retired gentleman, who may well have been homeless. There was plenty of fresh hot coffee, and “Luther’s table” was by the window. I saw Eddie ask people at the table to move, on more than one occasion, because “Luther likes this tabke.” There was never a bill for Luther. It was the Eddie Way.

    Eddie, if you ever get to Poplar Bluff, Missouri; stop by and say hi, or even better yet open a restaurant.


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