Ah, the Hickory Pit. At least that’s what my family’s always called this Hayward Establishment on Mission Boulevard, just near the intersection of Jackson and Foothill. If you look on the actual sign as it stands today, the words “Hickory Pit” do not appear. It rather says “Emil Villa’s (world famous) California Barbecue”. Did it used to say “Hickory Pit”? I need some comments from the peanut gallery on this one.
Regardless, the Pit (that’s what Grandma used to call it) hasn’t changed a bit since it opened in who-knows-what decade. It is yet another Hayward establishment that’s hanging on to the past with its tan vinyl booths, checkered tile floor, and old-fashioned food.
Which brings me to my review of this place. This is another one that’s hard for me to discuss fairly and honestly because I’ve been coming here my whole life. It’s not the type of place I like at all. In fact, I’d never ever go here, ever, if I weren’t already accustomed to it. I haven’t been here in years but an out of town visitor wanted a greasy spoon breakfast the other day, hence I found myself once again inside Emil Villa’s.
The menu is a diner menu (as in 50’s diner, not the evening meal of dinner). Breakfast is heavy and huge (omelettes, eggs Benedict, massive amounts of hash browns), lunch is Swiss steak and roast beef sandwiches, and dinner is ribs and fried chicken. I actually don’t have a copy of their menu on hand because they somehow don’t have a website, but I’m pretty sure this is the stuff you’ll find at the Hickory Pit. There is no vegetarian section. There are virtually no vegetarian dishes. The menu itself has been copied so many times with whited out prices that it’s getting a bit hard to read. Let’s just say their focus is not on ambiance here at Emil Villa’s.
We went for breakfast, which, despite my grumblings about it, wasn’t too bad. I mean, it’s diner food — greasy, enormous portions, nothing green anywhere — but 40-some years of prep has given them some expertise on the creation of classic American breakfasts. Don’t expect to leave feeling spry and ready to take on the day…you may in fact not need to eat again until tomorrow.
The two boys had omelettes and I had a grilled cheese since breakfasts like that usually make me feel sick. Aside from being hugely full and feeling like a french fry when I was done, everyone was pretty satisfied. The hash browns and potatoes that came with the omelettes were pro and the omelettes looked more like 10-egg ones than 4-egg or whatever they said on the menu. A grilled cheese is impossible to mess up unless American cheese is used in which case it’s inedible in my opinion. I received cheddar as requested, and thoroughly enjoyed my steak fries and pickle.
Their ribs are actually a signature dish, though I’ve never had them. The word “barbecue” is in the title of their restaurant and they have a giant special rib-cooking machine that’s supposed to make really good ribs. Again, I have no idea, perhaps said meat-eating peanut gallery can let us know what’s up with the ribs? Yelp people talk about them quite a bit too.
Overall, the Pit offers relatively crappy yet inexpensive diner food served in a facility from the 1970’s (or earlier). It’s not my favorite, but people do like the place. And if you’re hungry for a greasy yet traditional breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it’s one of the few places left in Hayward that will dish one out to you any day of the week. And if you’re lucky, the waitress won’t be surly either (ours wasn’t).