Sun Choi works magic at Café McBryde. At the sleepy little diner where she and her mother have served plate after plate of eggs, pancakes, and burgers for the past 24 years, Choi casts a spell on diners who want a simple yet superb meal without the pretense of a fancier place.
The best time to enjoy a meal at Café McBryde is in the late morning on a lazy weekend day. Warm sun rays come through the windows of the small diner, and classical music plays softly in the background. An eclectic assortment of photos hang on the walls — dolphins jumping, Korean foods, a painting of a man praying. Between the music, the food, and the decorations, everything is clearly well-orchestrated, but it feels effortless.
Choi, usually in jeans or floral-printed pants, runs between the diners to make sure everyone is doing okay, and she cracks jokes along the way. She’ll typically give the regulars a hard time for being too demanding. “Don’t you see I have new customers here?” She’ll yell across the restaurant, “They’re who I care about — you can wait!” Then she’ll run back into the kitchen.
If you’re ever wavering in what to order, don’t worry. Choi will help. She’ll look over the menu with you and point out a club sandwich or a lunch special, but she’ll usually direct you to the eggs. Buttery and well-cooked without being dry, an omelette from Café McBryde is the ultimate in breakfast perfection. The veggie omelette comes packed with avocado, spinach, zucchini, chunks of tomato, and melty cheddar cheese. Top off the order with hash browns and a coffee, and the McBryde breakfast trifecta is complete.
When asked about what her secret is — what it is that makes these eggs so delicious — Choi offers a disconcerting answer. “It’s a chemical! Just a little sprinkle of the chemical on a meal, and it’s delicious. Hope that’s okay!” She bursts into laughter and will quickly make sure you have everything you need — more coffee, maybe some extra hash browns. It’s almost certain that Choi is joking about the chemical, but the food is so good that you’ll be wondering if there really is something extra hidden between the eggs and cheese and veggies.
Maybe, after nearly a quarter century of serving food in her small diner off of San Pablo Avenue, Choi is just trying to have some fun with the restaurant. After running another diner in Marin, Choi and her mother decided to move over to Richmond in the early 1990's. Café McBryde has been open ever since. “It’s much more calm here in Richmond,” Choi says of her experience. In Marin she found that people would always ask her for substitutions or demand to know the percent of fat in a meal. “What do they care? If something is too fatty, just don’t eat it! People here don’t care — they just want a good meal. That’s what I want to give them.”
Choi delivers on this. The well-worn linoleum on the tables and the regular flow of patrons tell the story of a diner with a long and well-received life. From the fresh eggs, to the hearty pancakes, to the excellent service offered, Sun Choi and her mother have mastered the art of running a diner. No matter what black magic may be at work behind the scenes, Café McBryde is doing everything right.
4925 McBryde Ave, Richmond
Tel. (510) 231-9192
Monday - Saturday: 6:30 am to 3:00 pm
Check out their Yelp page here.