Carving out a niche in Escalon
By MARG JACKSON
If you plan on stopping by AC’s Café in Escalon anytime soon, make sure to bring your appetite.
The husband-wife team of Chris and Christine Vidales opened their café at 1429 Stanislaus St. – at the corner of Highway 120 and Stanislaus Street in Escalon – just a few months ago and are building the business on the strength of good food and quality customer service.
The Turlock residents make the commute right now but are planning to relocate to Escalon to be closer to the business. Both have been involved in the food industry for nearly two decades, learning their craft from Chuck Brown, whom they worked for in Turlock and refer to as their mentor.
The café, with its family-friendly atmosphere, is named for the couple’s two children 19-year-old Alyssa, a college student, and 13-year-old Christopher, an eighth grader.
Anxious to run a place of their own, the couple jumped at the opportunity to bring their skills to Escalon when the business location became available.
“The locals have treated us like absolute gold,” Chris shared.
He handles the kitchen duties, cooking up the menu items, while Christine runs the front of the house, tending to the customers.
“We’re it,” Chris said, adding that son Christopher helps out on weekends and daughter Alyssa when she is available. Other than that, the husband and wife are the only staff members of the business.
Open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., AC’s Café is a breakfast-lunch spot. They do have a Friday night dinner as well, serving up a weekly fish fry at 5 p.m. on Fridays and are open for the dinner service from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“Lunches are where we make our money,” Chris added, with the close proximity of the local high school providing them with a steady stream of customers for lunch. They do offer a student menu, which has been a big hit with the lunchtime crowd as well.
Most popular breakfast items include the jam-packed Alyssa’s breakfast burrito that features red potatoes, scrambled eggs, cheese, country gravy and your choice of ham, bacon or sausage; biscuits and gravy, and the linguica stacker, consisting of a bed of potatoes piled high with linguica, eggs and cheese.
“That’s one of the best,” Chris admitted of the stacker.
Another favorite is the ‘John Wayne Breakfast Burrito’ – an item not currently on the menu but ordered by those in the know – it’s the traditional breakfast burrito of eggs, meat, potatoes and cheese with some chili beans and more cheese on top. Don’t expect to finish it in one sitting.
Breakfast is served from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., then they switch gears to lunch.
For that crowd, the hot sandwiches have proven to be top sellers, including the BBQ chicken wrap and the French dip. You can also get house made red potato salad, coleslaw or Chris’s chili beans as a side to round out the meal. AC’s features a variety of one-third pound burgers freshly prepared and barbecued, from the open face chili burger to the mushroom cheeseburger, along with soups and salads.
The café offers ‘to go’ orders as well, whether it’s just a beverage or a full meal; call 209-691-8220.
The cozy interior features some Escalon-themed items and AC’s is quickly becoming the perfect place to stop and enjoy a meal and a fresh cup of coffee. The menu proclaims their motto: Good Coffee. Great Food. Better Customers.
“This is what I do,” Chris said of feeling right at home in the kitchen. “I enjoy everything about it … it doesn’t feel like I’m at work.”
The café offers a couple of special touches, with small toys for kids to play with while waiting for their food and a separate drink menu for specialty coffees and hot chocolate, served up by Christine.
“We also have fresh squeezed orange juice, it goes from the orange to your mouth with no rest stops,” explained Chris.
“I just like being able to work for myself,” Christine added. “I like getting to know people, getting to know the kids.”
Both can’t imagine doing anything else, having literally grown up in the restaurant business.
“What I really love is seeing the customers shoving their faces full of food,” Chris said, smiling.
With plates piled high and the business getting more well-known by the day, the couple hopes to keep that happening for years to come.