The smells of homemade jams adorn the tables, and the flavor of flaky French toast dances on the minds of all who peruse the menu. The walls are dressed with eye-catching décor; eclectic, to say the least.
This colorfully mysterious place is not located deep in an exclusive Hollywood neighborhood; instead, it is in our lovely town, and its name is Cathy’s Deli – a restaurant with a rich history of failure and redemption.
“The ultimate effect of the restaurant would be getting people to realize that there’s a space in the world again for restaurants where people feel comfortable,” said Eric Tovar-Plummer, Cathy’s Deli’s proprietor.
Plummer has been in the restaurant industry for most of his adult life, acting as a business consultant before going into ownership.
“I consulted against a lot of people buying restaurants, only because it’s hard to make money in a restaurant,” Plummer said. “It’s a labor of love. You have to fight through the pain of the first couple of years before you even see a penny.”
Cathy’s Deli was no exception, even if its story started long before Plummer was involved.
It was created 30 years ago and was originally named Danny’s Deli; a waitress named Cathy purchased the restaurant from Danny in a bankruptcy and renamed it.
It has held that name for 17 years now, but through that time it has had five different owners, with Plummer being the fifth.
Cathy’s history has obviously not been one of prolific success, but Plummer noticed something in it that was simply overlooked.
Plummer and his wife stumbled upon the restaurant while looking for a place that served James Beard French Toast, a breakfast dish in which French toast is coated with cornflakes and fried.
“This place had it,” Plummer said. “But it was the only thing good on the menu.”
Plummer then reached out to the owner and offered his consulting skills in an effort to help set it on a brighter path, but the owners instead said that they wanted to sell.
The process of purchasing Cathy’s began, and Plummer’s plan for it took form.
He decided from the onset that the most important aspect to focus on was the people and letting them dictate changes was key.
“You’re not gonna be successful as a restaurant unless you evolve with your neighborhood,” Plummer said. “And you’re not gonna evolve with your neighborhood unless you talk to the people that come in.”
Along with allowing the consumers to direct the ship, Plummer wants Cathy’s to have a positive impact on the community.
“This is one of the rare restaurants in Santa Clarita where you see… students from CalArts and students from The Master’s University in the same building at the same time,” said Plummer. “And they talk to each other. It doesn’t come up that they’re from different worlds.”
This exemplifies Plummer’s desire for the restaurant to be a place where cliques and the lines that seperate us as people are left at the door.
“Everybody likes food and everybody likes feeling respected, so why have a target demographic?” said Plummer.
Before any food hits the menu, Plummer and his family first make it at home. Breakfast favorites such as the horchata French toast likely came from Plummer’s home kitchen.
Though his wife and two children may not have shared the same lifelong love affair with the restaurant business that he has, they still support him and his plans for Cathy’s.
Before Plummer, Cathy’s had a long history of failure due to their 30 year status of mediocrity.
“For my money, I’d drive into Northridge next time,” said Yelp reviewer Wheels G. when discussing eating at Cathy’s before Plummer took over.
“We decided to eat at Cathy’s Deli after a twelve year hiatus,” said Lou R., another Yelp reviewer. “We stopped coming here because the quality of food went downhill. We were amazed to walk in to a clean and redecorated restaurant under new management.”
Lou and Wheels, though reviewing at different times, reflect the same opinion: the previous owners could not maintain a restaurant worth patronizing.
When looking at exactly why the past proprietors failed the reasons vary, but center around a few common themes: the service was subpar and the food was not very appetizing.
It is no wonder as to why the previous versions of Cathy’s failed if these were the issues that hung over them.
“It’s just different,” said Scott, frequenter of Cathy’s. “I’ve been coming to Cathy’s for over two decades and it just hasn’t been very good, but since Eric took over my family and I love it.”
Scott echos the opinion of many longtime customers that Cathy’s, for the first time in a long while, is a restaurant worth visiting.
And if you do find yourself in the diner there are a few dishes that cannot be missed, such as Horchata French toast, which is plumper and juicier than normal French toast, a classic breakfast burrito, and of course, the flaky french toast.