Linda's Cafe - Venerable Island Diner Just Keeps Going and Going, 24 Hours a Day
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
In the American culinary tradition, the phrase "greasy spoon" typically describes a place where people go to get their "food groove on" with foods that are usually thought to be anything but healthy. It's the kind of food that's supposed to "stick to your ribs" (pardon the pun!) with dishes flavored by and cooked with animal fats, and where you certainly won't find tofu or yogurt on the menu. After all, there are plenty of other places for that! Linda's Cafe is fully qualified for the moniker "greasy spoon" as they've been serving up "greasy spoon fare" for about 50 years and I've got to say the food just tastes too darn good to refuse!
Located adjacent to its sibling establishment, Bob's Whispering Palms, a popular "watering hole" that's been a seemingly permanent fixture like Linda's on the ocean side of East Hagatna Bay, I have always wanted to review Linda's Cafe. I was finally prompted to do so by the construction of a new dining room extension, one that seemed to double the capacity as well as to renovate an area that's been occupied by buildings that have been here longer than the weather! Linda's is an amazing place...all you have to do is go in and sit down at the counter -they are open 24 hours a day - anytime. You'll see what a "greasy spoon" kind of joint Linda's is, and why it is so beloved by its many customers.
I dropped twice, once for a very late breakfast near midnight and the next time for a lunch review when they serve their famous specials. The "midnight breakfast" included sampling three entrees - a Bacon Burger with Cheese ($5), Chamorro Sausage & Eggs Rancho Breakfast ($ 8) and the Fried Chicken Dinner ($7.50). No, I didn't try to eat it all, but I did eat a lot! The burger was really what you'd look for in a burger - lots of taste from loads of fat, cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, and a toasted bun. I've had better, but there was something oddly satisfying about eating here at the counter, watching the ebb and flow of the servers placing and taking orders through the kitchen pass. There's a sign that reads in big bold RED letters, "We use MSG. If you prefer your food w/out MSG, please let the server know." I'm not affected by MSG much so I didn't know if the burger was heavily laden or not!
The next entree was the Chamorro Sausage & Eggs Rancho Breakfast, which is definitely for hearty appetites. The Rancho Breakfast series has several variations besides the Chamorro Sausage. You can get Ham & Eggs, Bacon & Eggs, Portuguese Sausage & Eggs, or the Steak & Eggs. All of these come with two eggs cooked the way you like them, hash browns, toast, and pancakes. I did drink several cups of coffee with this meal, and they did provide canned milk. The hash browns were the best I've eaten on Guam, so good, in fact, that they evoked childhood memories! My mom made the best hash browns with mashed potatoes that were fried in bacon grease after being "riced" to make them straw-like - there's a fine point they reach that crisps the outer crust just prior to burning. The eggs were over easy and blended in with the hash browns, just the way I like them. I added bits of the ground up Chamorro sausage. I had the Fried Chicken Dinner delivered more for show than to eat. I did have a piece to sample with the bowl of finadene. It looked better than it tasted, but it wasn't bad...I'm just spoiled by my own recipes.
When I came back for lunch, I had to have one of the Daily Specials. The specials this day were Oxtail Stew ($7), Grilled Pork Chop ($7), and Fried Parrot Fish ($9).) I had a choice of Salad or Arroz Caldo to go with my Oxtail Stew. The stew was authentic, the real deal, with carrots, celery, potato, and a savory tomato sauce that just made you want more. I picked up the oxtails and sucked the meat right off the bone. This stew also captured a taste embedded in my memory from childhood. That thick gravy flavor sure pushed some buttons in me. Since I satisfied my stew craving and felt that I should (for the sake of getting another photo) have another special,
I decided to have the Pork Chops. I was served two grilled chops, not fried, which separated them from most of the other pork chops on Guam. The Arroz Caldo was the best I've ever tasted on Guam, with the perfect blend of chicken, ginger, green onions, and rice. I did take one of the chops home. Both the Oxtail Special and the Grilled Pork Chop were the last two orders for the day - they run out fairly soon so it's best to arrive early as they're available daily beginning at 9:30am. I noticed that there were a lot of take-out orders, even the Parrot Fish was ordered take out. You can do this too by calling in your order at 472-6117. It's hard to go wrong when you have both Guamanian and Filipino cooks in the kitchen, between them they cover the gamut of local tastes.
Linda's Cafe is owned by Robert DeLodge, who has been the anchor of this establishment since it's inception. He's seen a lot of things, and people come and go. I think everyone on Guam has visited Linda's Cafe at least once. I know I have, and I'm looking forward to the next time I'm in the mood for "greasy spoon" chow, the kind you can only get at Guam's famous landmark, Linda's Cafe!