Review: Habit’s Cafe

Habit’s is an Oakley standby. They’re known for bar food, burgers, and their convenient location before and after events at the 20th Century Theater, or just as a neighborhood hangout. For me, my exposure to Habits came a bit later in life, as I’ve never actually lived in the Hyde Park/Oakley area (The Better Half did, briefly, but we mostly hung out downtown. Oops.).

The afternoon after a recent event, The Better Half decided it was in both of our best interests to get some protein and grease in our systems.  He had, while I was on a business trip, tried out Habits’ Famous Potato Rags, and was having a craving.  As I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like, I was happy to join.

My only problem with Habit’s, in my four or so times going there, is their service.  On Saturdays, it’s seat yourself, which causes problems– like waiting for fifteen minutes with no menus while others who get there after you have their beverage and putting in their order.  Annoying, but because of Habit’s setup– two rooms, with what appeared to be one server covering both rooms, and no eagle eyed bartender in the room we were in– inevitable.  Be patient. The wait is worth it.

We started off with an order of Habit’s Potato Rags, which are famous for a reason: they’re really good (and really bad for you).  Imagine: deep fried hash browns, topped with cheese, onions, tomatoes, and ranch dressing.  If these were available at 3 AM, there would be no hangovers in town– they’re the perfect recovery food.

Next, we did the burgers.  I love the fact that they offer ostrich as a selection: it’s low in fat, high in protein, and a heck of a lot better for you than beef, with that beefy taste we all expect from a hamburger.  Terry went for Habit’s Style, which is the basic burger– cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, mayo.  I went for the barbecue-bacon-bleu ostrich burger (the bacon completely negating the ostrich, I’m guessing).  Both were cooked to order (medium, in both of our cases) and came with a side.  As we’d both filled up on potatoes earlier, we both went for their slaw, which was okay– more vinegar-based than mayonnaise, but not bad.   I was impressed byhow fresh and flavorful their tomatoes were, particularly in the off-season, and the toppings were all very good.  Their onions are chopped, which makes the burger a bit messy– but it’s a burger, they’re supposed to be a little messy, right?

My only complaints were service-oriented: it was hard for staff to cover both rooms at the same time, so drinks were often overlooked.  Our burgers came out about five minutes after our appetizer arrived, which is something easily fixed, but ultimately irritating.  I find the service to be better on Friday or Saturday nights, as opposed to lunchtime on weekends (despite the fact that there were plenty of people in the restaurant) or on weeknights.  We’ve had similar slow service on less-busy weeknights as well. Maybe we should just try eating at the bar– bar service is always fast and friendly.

Habit’s is a good choice for a beer or a burger if you’re in the Oakley area.  Throw your diet out the door for some of the to-die-for potato rags– just be patient.

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