Alma Gutierrez loves waffles.
That only makes sense because she owns and runs Old Town Waffle in the Barnyard Shopping Center.
Gutierrez is always looking for new waffle combinations to serve at the restaurant.
“Waffles are beautiful, and there are so many different flavors,” she said. “They make like a party in your mouth.”
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Since opening Old Town Waffle in 2013, Gutierrez has faced extra challenges because of a health crisis. But she’s also experienced the joy of connecting with her customers and her employees.
She remains a server at heart. “That’s what makes me be,” Gutierrez said.
Old Town Waffle is open for breakfast and lunch, and not surprisingly, waffles are the centerpiece of breakfast choices.
The Fruit Medley waffle — topped with bananas, berries and whipped cream — and the Chicken N’ Waffles — topped with three chicken strips — are customer favorites.
Gutierrez’s favorite is the Brown Sugar and Bacon waffle because she likes the sweet and salty combination. Other waffle choices are Caramel Pecan N’ Bananas, Bacon Cheddar, Peanut Butter N’ Bananas, Glazed Fresh Strawberry, Blueberry, Seven Grain Granola, Slow Roasted Cinnamon Apple and Plain. Waffle prices range from $6.99 to $10.99.
Gutierrez is in the process of adding new waffle combinations to the menu. They will include an Oreo Waffle and a Dulce de Leche Waffle, which features milky caramel.
Another new one features a salted banana with brown sugar. “Oh, my God. It’s so good,” Gutierrez said.
Old Town Waffle also serves pancakes, French toast, a variety of omelets, skillet breakfasts, eggs Benedict and tried and true offerings such as steak and eggs, and chicken fried steak and eggs.
With all of these offerings, customers can substitute half a waffle for toast at no extra charge.
Lunch offerings include burgers, sandwiches and salads.
Two of the burgers are the Cowboy Burger (featuring cheese, crispy bacon, grilled onions and mushrooms) and the BBQ Boot Burger (featuring cheddar cheese, crispy bacon and onion rings, all drizzled with barbecue sauce).
All of the burgers are handmade patties of Angus beef. Prices range from $7.99 to $10.49.
When Gutierrez was growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico, she was always a breakfast person – even at dinner time. Waffles, pancakes and French toast were her go-to meals.
She came to the San Joaquin Valley 13 years ago, and her first job was working as a server at a Mexican restaurant in Fowler.
“I like to talk to the customers and make friends with them,” she said.
Gutierrez was working at another restaurant when she decided she needed to be her own boss. A customer was not satisfied with his order, and, Gutierrez said, she didn’t feel he should have to pay. Her manager disagreed.
Gutierrez said she ended up paying the customer’s bill and soon left that restaurant to open Old Town Waffle. “I wanted a place where I could say ‘yes’ to people,” she said.
In 2015 — about two years after opening — Gutierrez was diagnosed with cancer. She had surgery and chemotherapy, and she was away from the restaurant for about one year. She returned in March 2016.
“The last two years have been the toughest of my life, but I’m still standing,” she said.
Gutierrez is once again able to focus on preparation and presentation – details that she believes are important to the success of the restaurant.
Her goal isn’t to get rich, Gutierrez said: “I’m doing this to give jobs to my employees and their families. My employees lift me up, and I want to keep doing this to create more fine food.”
Running her own restaurant is a dream come true, Gutierrez said: “I’ve gotten to know a lot of people, and that’s what makes my days happy.”
Old Town Waffle is at 1484 Clovis Ave. It’s open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. The telephone number is (559) 324-0577. The restaurant is on Facebook.