By Ashly McGlone
SAN LEANDRO -- From the outside, Dick's Restaurant & Cocktails looks much like it did when it opened in 1969. But on the inside, the son of a loyal customer is revamping the menu and refining the eatery's classic dishes with fresh ingredients.
Donald Dick, 51, is carrying out the vision of his late father, Herbert Dick, who ate at the retro restaurant bearing his family name up to three times a day for 40 years. His father died May 5 at the age of 75 after purchasing the restaurant in January to prevent its closure.
No one is quite sure how the restaurant got its name, but it meant something to Herbert Dick.
Dick, known as Chef DonD and trained at Le Cordon Bleu, recalls his father saying, "'Our last name is on the sign. We need to take care of this.'"
Dick plans to celebrate the restaurant's grand reopening Saturday on what would have been his dad's 76th birthday with a live band, a special memorial and samples from local Loard's Ice Cream, which will be added to Dick's menu.
Before his father's passing, Dick said the pair began to overhaul the restaurant, ditching the preservatives and nearly all frozen foods, and gave the place a good scrub down. Dick also shrunk the menu from 11 pages to seven and plans to begin making homemade pizza and pasta for dishes like spaghetti and a new lasagna roll-up.
Though the burger and fries have been a favorite for years and remain on the menu for $9, or $6.25 for seniors, four new types of miniburger sliders have been a hit, he said. His father's favorites -- eggs, bacon and fruit for breakfast, and the large Polish sausage -- will stick around.
Ownership of the property had changed at least twice before the Dicks purchased it, and three brothers owned the spot most of the 18 years the younger Dick ate there during visits from his home in Texas.
"My goal here is to bring it back to how the brothers had it, and better. The main thing is to allow the people to come back to the place they have such wonderful history with," said Dick, whose resume includes Hilton Hotels, Embassy Suites, Aramark and country clubs. "Some people come here every day. Some come twice a week."
Jan Woycheshin, a local businesses owner and Dick's regular since 1975, said she has already seen an increase in business since the Dicks took over earlier this year.
"It's a family restaurant. I have always felt really, really comfortable there," she said. "I can go in, and they all greet me by name and several other patrons, too."
She counts the turkey bacon club sandwich and the hamburger among her favorites, but said she also liked a new chicken Manhattan dish she recently tried.
"It was really good. ... We needed something a little more upscale," Woycheshin said. "I think the addition of the fresh food is going to really help. Hopefully it will be a big success."
Located at the corner of Alvarado Street and Fremont Avenue, Dick's was prominently featured in Radiohead's song "High and Dry" in 1995 and features a restaurant, adjacent cocktail lounge and banquet area.
Ashly McGlone covers San Leandro, San Lorenzo, San Ramon and the Washington Township Health Care District. Contact her at 510-293-2463. Follow her at Twitter.com/ashlyreports.
A grand reopening celebration will be held from 2 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 13.
Located at 3188 Alvarado St., Dick's restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The cocktail lounge is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and until 2 a.m. on weekends. The banquet room is available by reservation.