September 13, 2020
For the past 20 years, the classic diner-style decor inside Village Pantry has provided customers with a trip down memory lane. Co-owned by David and Julie Ogilvie and nestled in the heart of Downtown Los Altos, The Village Pantry is a homey restaurant serving old-fashioned American comfort food seven days a week.
After moving to the United States from Taiwan, Julie started the restaurant due to her love for cooking and the desire to replicate the American food she tried. She found American food to be easy to experiment with, adding her own creative touches to different dishes.
“I just go out and eat, and I think about what’s inside,” Julie said. “Immediately, I go home and cook another meal similar to what I ate to see if I can do it. Every time, it comes out even better.”
Along with creating original recipes, Julie prioritizes the freshness and quality of her food. After working at the restaurant every day, she heads to the grocery store to buy fresh produce for the next. Her nights are spent baking biscuits, squeezing fruit juice and making homemade jams.
“The customers and I are just like friends,” Julie said. “If there is something on the menu that they cannot eat, I will make it for them and try to get creative.”
Conversing over experiences from World War II to childhood memories, customers can feel like they’re in their living room while at the restaurant.
“Older customers can talk about what they’ve been through and things I didn’t even know about,” David said. “I say that’s a very good story, and they say that’s not a story, it’s real. This restaurant is like a family. Anybody can talk about their good news or bad news and we’ll help each other. That’s how strong we are.”
According to Los Altos High School senior Grace Patterson, Village Pantry’s homey environment is apparent as soon as you walk in.
“She has pictures of all of her customers on the walls and keeps every little trinket that she receives,” Grace said. “Walking in there, you really feel the community and the spirit of the restaurant that a lot of new restaurants are missing.”
Priding themselves on their tight-knit customer environment, David and Julie recently opened the back patio to provide customers with a similar experience in the fresh air.
“The norm was that we would sit next to the customer, joke with them, talk to them, but now, you can’t do that when everything is from a distance,” David said.
The pandemic has made it difficult for the Village Pantry staff to keep close connections with many of their regulars stuck at home. Even though they’re unable to visit the restaurant, an outpour of customers offered donations and support to their beloved restaurant.
“People have been buying gift cards and we don’t even ask,” David said. “They’ll come or send letters in the mail with checks inside saying they want us to stay. Finding out people genuinely want us to be here and continue our work has been surprising to us.”
Thanks to the support from their customers, Julie and David have opened the restaurant for pick-up and seating in the outdoor patio. They are happy to catch up with both their regulars and new customers.
“It’s never an awkward silence where everyone is just eating,” LAHS senior Audrey Boennighausen said. “It’s constant conversation and even if it’s your first time there, you feel like you’re a part of that.”
Although the pandemic has made it difficult for the restaurant to stay afloat, Julie will continue to serve piping hot plates of their signature dishes and make her customers feel as at home as possible.
“Her determination and desire to prove to people that she can do it keeps the restaurant going,” David said. “She doesn’t want to let people down. It’s not even in her mindset that she wouldn’t be here.”