Photo By: Eliza Ridgeway/Town Crier
Local breakfast lovers are eating final, fond orders of biscuits, omelets and homestyle potatoes at Country Gourmet this week. The 30-year-old Mountain View restaurant is closing doors as owner Herman Shaw retires from the business.
Those who live for a weekend snack of French toast topped with grilled bananas, almonds and caramel sauce – or the other specialties at the independent diner – will have to eat their fill by Sunday. The family-run restaurant and the land on which it sits have been sold to a new owner.
According to Mountain View Zoning Administrator Peter Gilli, the fast-food chain Five Guys Burgers and Fries has applied for a permit to make minor modifications to the building. He said the permit application is minor enough to be approved without a hearing.
Shaw told the Town Crier that due to increasing overhead costs and a readiness to retire, the family decided to sell this spring after entertaining offers for years. He noted that many of the employees have worked at Country Gourmet for 10 or more years and are looking for new jobs.
The family began its tenure at the corner of El Camino Real and Rengstorff Avenue in 1966, when they opened a branch of The Red Barn Restaurant franchise. According to the Shaws, it was the first fast-food franchise in Mountain View, soon to be followed by McDonald’s and Big Boy. Hamburgers sold for 15 cents, cheeseburgers were 20 cents and three-piece chicken and fries were 69 cents.
The Red Barn closed after the parent corporation first bought back the franchise and then went bankrupt, Shaw said in an email, and Country Gourmet opened in 1981 as an independent, family-run business. Herman and his wife, Mary Jo, also pastored the Christian Life Center on San Antonio Road in Palo Alto for decades, where they built the largest child care center in the region.
Asked how he managed multiple enterprises at once, Shaw replied that he always surrounded himself with competent people and let them do their thing – and that he “needs very little sleep.”
Shaw’s son Victor Martindale built a second branch in Sunnyvale under the same name, which he sold a few years ago. The Sunnyvale location, whose chef bought the business with his family, operates independently but has a similar look and feel to the original.
Shaw said that while it was the right time to close, it was bittersweet to say goodbye to customers who’d been a part of their lives for decades.
“They are like family, as we have seen their children grow up, marry and bring their own children to eat with us,” he said.
Shaw added that his customers have registered “many, many” requests for Country Gourmet recipes, and the family hopes to compile a recipe book after they close and have time to reduce the recipes to family size.
Los Altos resident Judi Kline wrote to the Town Crier about her love for the barn-shaped building and “those sweet and funky trompe l’oeil windows to the sky inside.” Particularly a fan of the scalloped potatoes and dinnertime standards like pot roast, lemon chicken and lasagna, Kline wrote, “ I just want to say a huge thank you to the owners and staff for providing for so many years a unique, excellent choice for dining. ... For as long as I’m alive, that corner will always belong to the Country Gourmet.”
Los Altos Hills resident Sue Welch also marked the restaurant’s passing as a notable local event, sharing that she would miss the “healthy, freshly made meals that are always a great value.”
Country Gourmet , located at 2098 W. El Camino Real will serve breakfast, lunch and until it closes at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit www.countrygourmetmv.com.