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April 2017

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Country Kitchen – Something for Everyone

Femme de Joie misses the old Omelet House, up there on North Hilltop.

No, it wasn't a transcendental experience, but it was a pretty good place to get breakfast in a town where decent breakfasts are thin on the ground. Behind the counter was a menu signed by Ron Howard, who stopped in one morning for provender. Whatever happened to that menu?

About 20 years ago Country Kitchen opened next door to, then moved into, that old Omelet House space. They've made a successful go of it, dishing up breakfasts and lunch for some years now - they were even mentioned in the New York Times "36 Hours in Redding" (http://travel2.nytimes.com/2006/07/07/travel/escapes/07hours.html ). It's the kind of place where you pick up The Nickel outside to peruse while you wait for your food, in case you were in the market for eustachian equipment, a dowsing class, or Pearl Harbor pups.

Country Kitchen is known mostly for their generous servings of breakfast, though they do lunch too, as well as sell bread and cinnamon rolls from their bakery. Generally customers are shuffled first into the smaller dining room, mostly booths with a couple of tables in the center. But if it's busy, the larger Omelet House area handles the overflow. Customers are a mix of retirees, families, working men, and an aging hippie or two. Service is friendly, if occasionally somewhat scattered - the person who brings the coffee may be quick to tell you she isn't your waitress.

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Scrapple with hash browns, a biscuit, and eggs, $9.55; side of gravy, $1.99.

Oh, it did gladden M. de Joie's heart to see scrapple on the menu. If you're not familiar with this delicious dish, it's what was made with the remainder of the pig once the chops, ribs, roasts, and so on were removed - the small, flavorful scraps were boiled with cornmeal to make a thick pudding, which was fried until crisp. This version is topped with bacon to reiterate the porky goodness, and served with potatoes and eggs. Lovely crisp scrapple cakes were tender on the inside with a crunch on the outside. You wouldn't want to eat this every day unless you carry a defibrillator in your back pocket, but it's a treat once in a while.

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Special of the day, sourdough pancakes with peaches, sour cream and brown sugar cinnamon sauce, sausage, $8,25.

When this plate was first set before M. de Joie, it truly looked like fried eggs on top. Nope - it was canned peaches. The pancakes were delicious, but M. de Joie could not bring herself to appreciate the oddly bitter creamy cinnamon syrup. Too bad - the pancakes and peaches (out of a can) would have been better served with plain (imitation) maple or fruit syrup.

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Chinese chicken salad, $9.75, served with house-made cornbread.

You wouldn't expect a salad so blatantly healthy and colorful to come out of the kitchen of a mainly-breakfast cafe, but there is was. This was excellent - freshly-grilled chicken on top of a beautiful array of crisp vegetables. If there was any complaint, it was that the dressing was so thin, it didn't stick to the salad and puddled underneath. Other than that, Chinese chicken salad was a winner, as was the crunchy cornbread served alongside.

The only item Femme de Joie tasted at Country Kitchen that was a misfire was chicken fried steak (not pictured) - the doughy, undercooked crust was unappetizing and the steak was very salty. as was the gravy that day.

Though there are some misses on the execution, M. de Joie likes Country Kitchen and could be persuaded to go back. It does get crazy busy at times, especially Sunday mornings, so call ahead if you're with a group. There's something for everyone on the menu and the prices are fair for the large portions. If you're out on Hilltop waiting for the mall to open, stop by.

Country Kitchen, Town and Country Plaza, 1099 Hilltop Drive, Redding, CA 96002. 530-223- 5438. Open daily from 7:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Breakfast and lunch, bakery. No alcohol. No checks accepted; cards, cash. On-site parking. Vegetarian options. Website at http://www.countrykitchenredding.com/