Village Pantry: traditional American breakfast food, and a place to call home

STORY BY KAITLYN HUANG AND MADISON YUE, PHOTOS BY EMILY MCNALLY

Typical hobbies might include woodworking, gardening or maybe even starting a book club — but Julie Ogilvie is no weekend hobbyist. Wanting to start a hobby that could make a mark on the community, she and her husband, David Ogilvie, took ownership of the restaurant Village Pantry to give the Los Altos community a place to call home.

“We bought it for my wife to be productive and to have something in the community that she could say ‘Look, I did this,’” Mr. Ogilvie said.

Over 20 years later, Mr. and Mrs. Ogilvie still own and operate the cozy coffee shop, which was originally established in 1947. 

“I learned a lot from running this restaurant,” she said. “All [of] the customers teach me a lot. It feels like a home.” 

Customers also feel at home, as the restaurant is a popular gathering place for them to share stories in a warm and friendly environment. Dining at Village Pantry is like taking a walk down memory lane surrounded by cheerful and pleasant decorated interiors. The restaurant’s walls have over 20 years’ worth of photos and holiday greeting cards from previous customers.

“I think it’s [because] people want to say that ‘This is my place too,” Mr. Ogilvie said, in regard to why they decided to cover the walls with memorabilia. “They want to be remembered.”

Diane Chow, a Los Altos resident and familiar face at Village Pantry, was astonished that kids who have grown up going to the restaurant now bring their own children to relive Village Pantry memories. 

“They go there with their kids, and they like to point out the pictures on the wall,” she said. “They’ll say, ‘That’s me when I was a kid, having the famous Mickey Mouse chocolate pancake.’” 

Not only do customers create memories at Village Pantry, but Mr. and Mrs. Ogilvie have their own warm memories of running the restaurant, such as bonding with friends, filling the shop with “relaxing music” from the ’50s and “making people happy” — one of their many goals when running the shop. 

Some of the many family photos that adorn the walls of Village Pantry.

And people are indeed happy with their service –– longtime customer and Los Altos resident Phyllis Yamasaki said that dining with her husband at Village Pantry has consistently been their “weekend treat” for the past 13 years. The restaurant is also their spot for celebrating life’s biggest milestones like birthdays, Father’s Days and Sunday brunches with their family. 

“We fell in love with Julie and David and how welcoming they always are, and how they remembered our names right away,” Yamasaki said. “They started to know what our favorite dishes were.” 

Chow added that newcomers “automatically start to feel at home because somebody in there will start to talk to them.” Chow herself has made numerous friends that she continues to meet on a regular basis outside of Village Pantry. 

Yamaski added that it’s not just the environment that makes you feel at home, but the food too.

“The first bite of anything from Village Pantry, I know it’s homemade,” Yamasaki said. “I know I’m not eating something that was previously frozen.”

Walking into Village Pantry, customers are often greeted with the aroma of warm hashbrowns, freshly flipped pancakes and creamy hollandaise sauce on a classic eggs benedict. 

The Ogilvies also take pride in the fact that Mrs. Ogilvie shops for all of their ingredients personally, buying fresh veggies and fruits from local vendors in Los Altos. 

“It’s an old-style restaurant, it’s not a fancy place, [but] it guarantees decent food. That’s our goal,” Mr. Ogilvie said.

Mrs. Ogilvie is notable among her customers for her dedication and arriving at the coffee shop at 5:30 a.m. every day of the week to cook the majority of the food.

“Julie is a real trooper, [working] unbelievable hours to provide the quality of service that she does,” said Los Altos resident Larry Dorie, another regular at Village Pantry. “She’s an asset. She’s not in it to make a fast buck [and] she’s not in it to get rich. She really enjoys providing a service to customers and you can see that in her when you go there.”

But the Ogilvies were met with unparalleled challenges during the pandemic because a large group of their customers, who were seniors, could not visit the restaurant on a regular basis like they did prior to the pandemic. As a result, they faced a significant drop in revenue which forced them to work even harder to keep the business afloat. According to Mr. Ogilvie, Village Pantry only made it through the worst parts of the pandemic through the support of his other job.

The Ogilvies also said that they received help from customers who pitched in to prevent the restaurant’s closure; some customers went so far as to buying take-out on a daily basis to ensure that the restaurant could remain open.

“The restaurant is surviving because of the community,” Mr. Ogilvie said. 

Fast forwarding to May, under county guidelines, Village Pantry is now operating at 50% capacity for indoor dining, and the outdoor garden patio is open every day. The restaurant also offers a to-go system, in which customers can pick up orders without leaving their cars, giving the opportunity for the Ogilvies to connect with their patrons. 

“We now know our customers by their cars,” Mr. Ogilvie said. 

Mr. Ogilvie also noted that the customers’ excitement and love for Village Pantry is what “keeps us open.” 

“It’s our home away from home,” Yamasaki said. 

Village Pantry is open in Downtown Los Altos every day from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Getting a cheesecake from Basuku is like winning the lottery

STORY BY OLIVIA HEWANG AND MADISON YUE, PHOTOS BY EMILY MCNALLY

Melt-in-your mouth creamy, deeply caramelized and notoriously hard to come by nowadays, Charles Chen’s Basque cheesecakes have burst onto the Bay Area food scene. Basuku Cheesecakes, founded by Chen, has gained a cult following during the pandemic and now boasts pop-ups in San Francisco, Oakland and Palo Alto as well as national shipping. 

Barely a year ago, Chen, a food consultant, began baking for the first time as a hobby during the pandemic. He was intrigued by Basque cheesecake — a fusion of a traditional Spanish cheesecake and a Japanese style souffle cheesecake that has become increasingly popular — and a friend’s tips helped him perfect his own recipe. 

Chen’s cheesecake quickly caught on, with his chef friends posting about it on social media and the cheesecake mania snowballing from there. Chen, who had never expected a business to grow out of his cheesecake experiments, found himself inundated with orders that were quickly overwhelming his kitchen. 

The cheesecake maestro compared his sudden success to getting “struck by lightning,” from the perfect timing of starting pop-ups during the pandemic to the growth of his social media — where Chen has amassed a following of almost 13,000 cheesecake fanatics. 

Chen’s Basque cheesecakes.

Despite his rapid growth, Chen is still a “one man show” who bakes roughly 150 cheesecakes a week and struggles to keep up with the tide of demand. Dubbed the “most coveted cheesecake in the Bay Area” by fans on Instagram, Chen’s cheesecakes have spawned plenty of longing comments from fans who desperately want to get their hands on one. 

“I did not make this cake for it to be something that was exclusive,” said Chen, who recently finished a 33-day stint in the kitchen without a day off. “I’m working six, seven days a week.” 

As for Basuku Cheesecakes’s future, Chen says a permanent storefront is the next step, but he has no intention of expanding his menu beyond his iconic cheesecake. 

“I’m not a baker, not a chef,” Chen said. “I like to specialize in one product and I try my best to make that one product as best as I possibly can.” 

Chen may not be professionally trained, but he’s far from a newcomer to the industry, saying that his perfectionist approach to his cheesecakes comes from a lifetime of growing up in food and beverage. 

“My family had a Japanese restaurant, which operated for 30 years,” Chen said. “It’s just what I do, it’s in my blood, I live and breathe this stuff.” 

Despite all of his success, Chen still feels pressure to produce the best product he can.

“[When I’m] speaking to bakers who’ve been doing this for 25 years versus a year like myself, I say, ‘Every single time I put something in the oven, I’m still nervous,’ and they’re like, ‘Well, that’s because you care.’” 

Aside from keeping up the quality of his cheesecakes, Chen also cares about putting down roots in the community. Chen, who has recently used his social media platform to raise awareness about violence against Asian Americans and support fundraisers, said he wants Basuku Cheesecakes to not only be a go-to for tasty cakes, but to be a brand for people to rely on in rallying the community. 

Working with Oakland businesses, Chen was able to raise $13,000 in donations for the organizations Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Stop AAPI Hate, a number that rose to almost $40,000 with the added support of Silicon Valley companies. 

“Right now, the community needs something to bring us all together,” Chen said. “And whether it’s a cheesecake, whatever it is you know, I’m just trying to do my part to do that.”

Basuku Cheesecakes’ pick up locations: 

The Morris in San Francisco starting at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays 
Nightbird in San Francisco from 10–2 p.m. on Thursdays
The Commis Restaurant in Oakland from 2–3 p.m. on Thursdays
Vina Enoteca in Palo Alto starting at 11 a.m. on Fridays

For more information on how to pre order and frequent updates, check out Basuku Cheesecakes on Instagram.

Teenage entrepreneur Ayaka Sonehara creates small jewelry business, Buttercupbeaut.

PRODUCED BY KAITLYN HUANG AND MADISON YUE

Founded by teenager Ayaka Sonehara in August of 2020, jewelry business Buttercupbeaut. is notable for its unique design, attention to detail and personalized packaging. Sonehara’s business is currently donating $3 for every order to RAINN, an organization that aims to help sexual assault survivors.