When I’m in the mood for some perfectly crisped, golden brown pancakes, I point my mouth towards Good Day Café. Tucked away inside an unassuming shopping center on Speedway just east of Craycroft, Good Day Café has been making a name for themselves and growing a devoted following since opening in August 2013. Their business model is simple: serve up scratch-made food at competitive prices. Owner Susan Duran points to their clientele as the deciding factor for the Good Day Café’s price point. “We want to make our customers happy and still make a profit, but I’m not going to raise more than I have to,” she says. She estimates that most menu items fall about $2 below what similar restaurants charge. Lower prices haven’t resulted in a lower quality dining experience: the tuxedo t-shirt-clad employees are all smiles when we arrive for breakfast on a sunny Sunday morning.
Our food arrives piping hot a few minutes after placing our order. My short stack of pancakes ($3.99) are fresh off the griddle, featuring the crispy finish over a fluffy interior with just the right balance of salt and sweet that pancake dreams are made of. I asked Duran what makes the pancakes at Good Day Café so good. She points to the batter for the flavor – “We use a combination of cinnamon and vanilla, and a secret ingredient that I’m not going to tell you,” – and gives the kitchen credit for the griddle-flipped perfection: “That’s my cooks, there’s nothing we do with that.” Duran emphasizes the importance of experience when she considers who to hire. “When I hire a line cook, they have to have 5 years experience,” she says. They also have to be great at working as a team: “It’s two [cooks] back there; they have to read each other’s minds on what they’re doing.” That teamwork aesthetic holds true for all the café’s staff, with menu items being the result of input from the servers, cooks, and Duran herself, who says she considers her employees to be like family.
It turned out I wasn’t the only person in the mood for griddle food that Sunday. The potato pancakes ($7.59 for just the cakes, $7.99 for a combo plate) deviated from the usual approach to potato pancakes, mixing savory potatoes, green peppers, and red onions into regular pancake batter. The result is a bit sweeter than a traditional potato pancake, but still up to pairing with sour cream and applesauce for a potato-licious dish.
The chicken and waffles ($7.99) showcased Good Day Café’s fried chicken, an item I don’t often encounter due to my tendency to order breakfast items (read: pancakes) every time I eat at the café. The breading on the chicken was thick and crunchy, without being overly greasy, and the seasoning was right on, not too salty, with enough pepper to bring out the flavor but not so much that it hides the chicken. We slathered on the hot sauce and syrup and got to work.
I asked Duran if there were any menu items that she takes special pride in. She points first to The Hobo ($7.49), a breakfast special featuring two eggs, two sausage patties, and hash browns, “all layered in a big heaping pile; it’s enough for two men to eat.” I recommend taking portion size warnings seriously at Good Day Café; I’ve had The Hobo, and I took about two-thirds of it home after admitting defeat. Duran’s other menu favorite is Good Day Café’s annual NFL Burger series ($9.29 for a burger). The staff dream up with a different burger for each team in the NFL (32 in total), and then remove burgers from the menu as their corresponding teams get eliminated in the playoffs. The winning team’s burger stays on the menu all year long.
Whether seeking a cheap and tasty breakfast or a hearty lunch in midtown Tucson, Good Day Café has you covered – and the variety of their menu and consistent service is likely to make you a return customer.
Good Day Café
5683 E Speedway Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85712