Did someone say cow art is out? Owners of the Wholly Cow certainly haven't gotten the word. This Northridge restaurant is filled with every imaginable bovine facsimile-- knickknacks, stuffed toys, needlepoint samplers, planters and a Holstein stool complete with udder.
"And did you see the hostess's shoes?" asked my guest. "Would you believe cow sneakers?"
Linda Gates, who is also one of the restaurant's owners, laughingly told us the shoes had been too much to resist when she spotted them in a mail-order catalogue. She also explained that much of the other bovine paraphernalia around the restaurant had been gifts from employees and customers.
The cow art accents an otherwise green and white decor in the L-shaped dining room. White lattice on the walls, green and white oilcloth under glass table tops and cane chairs give the room an airy, garden (or should we say pastoral?) feeling.
Wholly Cow serves the same menu throughout the day, which touts "bountiful burgers, scrumptious salads, opulent omelets and super soups," all prepared with ingredients "guaranteed to be of the highest quality, fresh and wholesome." For the most part we agree.
Breakfast is served any hour, but they also have four $2.79 specials available daily until 11 a.m. We tried the country breakfast with two eggs, bacon, home style potatoes and English muffin--good potatoes. Their French toast is cinnamon flavored, deep-fried and very rich. I was glad that the waitress suggested a half order, but children seem really to like it.
Pancakes, Belgian waffles and eggs Benedict round out the breakfast menu. Then there are eight varieties of three-egg omelets on the lunch and dinner menu, which include a couple vegetarian, Mexican and Italian offerings.
The same part of the menu also offers half a dozen salads, as many kinds of sandwiches and seven types of burgers. Their special burger is topped with bacon, avocado, sauteed mushrooms, red onion, tomato and melted Swiss cheese. Nothing wrong with that. And nothing wrong with the generous amount of waffle-cut French fries that came as an accompaniment (you may opt for salad instead).
Good Soups, Onion Rings
Perhaps the best menu item we tasted, however, were the onion rings. The restaurant makes their own batter, which has plenty of pepper, and fries the rings to perfection. They weren't the least bit greasy.
All soups are prepared daily on the premises. Although we didn't have an opportunity to taste it, we've been told the corn chowder they offer occasionally is outstanding. The cream of broccoli we did try had good flavor, but was thickened a bit too much for our taste.
In addition to the regular menu items, several specials are offered each day. The grilled halibut we selected one evening was still moist and served simply with a wedge of lemon. As with all dinners at Wholly Cow, it came with a choice of soup or salad, a flavorful brown and white rice pilaf, mixed vegetables ideally cooked tender-crisp, a fresh watermelon wedge and, unfortunately, some very so-so garlic bread.
Also disappointing was the croissant used for the combo- grande sandwich. The sliced ham, turkey and roast beef, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato deserved a much more flaky, crisp wrapper.
Our waitress explained some of the desserts aren't always available, but there were others to choose from, and she was glad to not only tell us about them, but make recommendations. We found the blackout cake rather dry, but the praline cheesecake was quite good.
Service is friendly and attentive. You can't ask much more of a casual little family restaurant.
The Wholly Cow, 19346 Rinaldi St., Northridge, (818) 368-4150. Open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m to 9 p.m., Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. No reservations. Visa and MasterCard accepted ($10 minimum). Lot parking. Entrees, $4.75 to $8.95