Downtown Los Altos is full of quaint shops and well-loved restaurants, but some people have not had the chance to explore the town’s depths. Rick’s Cafe, one of Los Altos’ most popular attractions, has established itself as a family-friendly comfort food haven. Those who are unaware of Rick’s should pay a visit to this homestyle breakfast and lunch diner—the food is just a small fraction of what it has to offer.
Founded in 2007 by Richard Lee and Joe Lobo, Rick’s derives its name from Lee’s nickname. The couple originally invested in raw coffee beans and started Rick’s as a small coffee shop. With the help of current manager Sylvia Komrosky, dedicated employees and loyal customers, the couple eventually expanded their business to a full diner.
After almost a decade of running the cafe, the owners decided in August this year to sell the business. New owner Jane Kim and her son, Daniel, are now busy smoothing the transition period and looking for ways to improve Rick’s.
“We renovated a lot of things because after seven years, everything wears [out],” waitress Cintia Loaiza said. “It feels like the golden days of Rick’s Cafe are coming back because we were saying, ‘Yeah, we need a lot of upgrades and we were just waiting on those [renovations].’ It’s been really good.”
Rick’s prides itself on maintaining a cozy environment and attentive customer service. In fact, the majority of Rick’s customers are “regulars.” As a result, waiters and customers often form close relationships that deepen over the years.
“The customers either identify with our waiters or some groups, of waiters” Loaiza said. “We get families in here so the kids get attached to a certain person, so it’s really nice. You see them kind of growing up as they come here…I feel like the kids like to identify with the whole group of waiters…and that just makes them feel welcomed, like they can come back, like this is their second home.”
Customers filter in and out, and new faces pop up every day. However, Rick’s hospitable ambience does not change. Sometimes, the staff at Rick’s hype up the spirit with surprising and fun events.
“We used to dress up,” Loaiza said. “One month we did a Renaissance theme. Everybody was hyped up…We picked the fluffiest dresses, so the whole entire day, we were bumping in our costumes. It was so funny.”
Aside from the familial atmosphere, Rick’s is best known for its coffee beans. The cafe takes the raw beans and roasts them with their own coffee roasting machine, a giant apparatus located at the front of the cafe. This is considered unusual as most restaurants simply buy pre-ground coffee. As a result, Rick’s coffee is an original blend, carefully roasted in-house.
“We buy organic beans from Guatemala, Sumatra, India and Brazil,” Daniel said. “We try to mix [them] together to create this unique taste…A lot of people like the home-roasted beans, rather than having them pre-roasted—it just makes the coffee more authentic. The taste is much more balanced.”
Besides coffee, the breakfast and lunch menu offers over 150 choices including wheat-germ pancakes, egg scrambles and chuck burgers. On top of that, customers can customize dishes to satisfy their appetites.
“Here, we give the customers what they want—it’s not especially a stick-to-the-menu type of thing,” Loaiza said. “So if you’re craving something wild or crazy—anything—that’s what I feel like our signature is. We’ll try to give you what you want.”
With a rich history and dedicated service, Daniel anticipates that Rick’s will remain a part of the Los Altos community for years to come. Looking forward, he hopes to expand Rick’s to other locations as well.
“If we have enough profit, then we’ll start expanding to other locations and probably make a franchise,” Daniel said. “That’s our really long-term….goal. It’s just something to aspire to.”