The original 'Annie's Cafe' is located on Mission Trail in Lake Elsinore. It actually started as a little 'mom and pop' burger bar named 'Sunnymead Hamburgers'. Those owners - a hard-working, quality couple who loved to look after their customers and serve great food, realized soon after the arrival of McDonalds, In n' Out and Carl's Jnr, that it would be difficult to compete with those major chains at this little location. So they changed their game plan and in 1989 'Sunnymead Burgers' became 'Annie's Cafe" named after the owner's grandmother who loved to cook.
Now the story I've been told by the many customers who knew these lovely first owners, was that they enjoyed riding motorbikes and the gentleman owner was the victim of a horrendous accident whilst riding across the Ortega mountain and in her grief, his wife sold the restaurant shortly after. Furthermore, being the loving couple that they were, she soon passed away herself - maybe of a broken heart?
Subsequent owners have had limited success with keeping the high standards of the original couple and by October 2000 the successive owners, failing and about to become bankrupt, decided that they would simply walk out at the end of their lease, October 31 2000.
That's when my husband Kevin and I took over the restaurant with our daughter, Kirsty. We bought 'Annie's Cafe' on October 27th 2000 with just four employees and immediately set to the task of revitalizing this little place. New refrigeration and kitchen equipment was purchased to replace the units in disrepair. We cleaned and scrubbed the kitchen, prep and dishwash areas. We closed for Thanksgiving the following month and all three of us rolled up our sleeves and attacked the dining room with bleach, polish and a steam cleaner for the walls and carpet - imagine our shock when the 'burgundy' carpet was truly blue! Customers came in that Friday and commented that we had 'redecorated' - no my lovelies, it's called bleach!
We did have faithful customers left over from the previous owners - we believed they were all single ladies and gents. Until it was cleaned - then those faithful customers felt it was okay to bring in their friends and other halves. Many of those lovely customers still come in to eat with their families and in fact we now have five generations of one of those families popping in whenever they can!
From that one day of cleaning we never looked back - so much so that when we applied for our investment visa the US Embassy declined us stating that 'it was a fairytale and couldn't possibly be true! The Californian picked up the story and made us front page news after hearing that hundreds of our loyal customers had written letters to the Embassy proving that we did, in fact, exist and had worked our little bottoms off to turn the dying business around and were now giving employment to sixteen dedicated Americans. Our visa was immediately approved upon receipt.
In July 2005 we knocked through to the unit next door to try to alleviate the waiting time to get into the restaurant. We closed on a Sunday at two o'clock and reopened the following Saturday at 5.30am. Having taken over the seating from next door we felt we'd be fine, but still more and more people came - hungry for the food and welcoming atmosphere of Annie's Cafe.
As a result our property manager built us an outside patio to alleviate the waiting further and still they came........... This excitement was truly dampened when Annie's was caught alight during construction and came very close to burning down completely in February 2013. With over fourteen fire trucks and a large number of firemen who liked eating at Annie's - the building was saved. Thank Goodness!
We have had many, many newspaper articles written about us since our small beginning in October 2000, but none as great as being featured on KTLA News 'Burrous Bites' in July 2013. Chris Burrous stated that he had received more emails regarding this restaurant 'than any other restaurant that he had ever featured'. A truly great compliment to us and a testimony to how brilliant Annie's customers really are!
Annie's always has been primarily an American Diner with attitude and taste - but we've thrown in a few of our home favorites to make it 'A little Brit different'. We serve just three British meals, Fish n' chips, Bangers and Mash and the Winston Churchill full English breakfast with Heinz Baked Beans, English Bangers and English Bacon. But we've got loads of British memorabilia decorating the walls so that we may share our heritage with you - we even have a full size knight standing guard and a telephone box for those many 'Facebook' moments for your long distance friends and family.
And the dancing - one day a young lady (knee high to a grasshopper!) came in and asked if I would do the chicken dance with her and it made so many people smile that we continued. We now spontaneously erupt into many different dances during the day - why, because it makes our customers smile and that's what Annie's is all about - great food and service in a fun environment - life's good when we can make you smile!
And just so you know - from our humble beginnings with just four employees - we are now giving employment to well over forty people, with plans for more - doing our bit for America, well the Inland Empire anyway!
With lines out the door in Lake Elsinore came the need for another location. We sourced and negotiated three other leases for the second location until we found the right one, right area, lovely family orientated landlord and a fair lease! We already knew that some of our customers drive all the way from San Diego, Escondido and Temecula to get to us. Therefore we decided to locate the second 'Annie's Cafe' in the Jefferson Avenue building in Temecula. Our wonderful landlord produced and executed the lease within four days so that Kevin could get in there and get started. It was originally a diner and more recently a burger bar and required some major renovations and repairs to bring it to the beautiful restaurant you see today. Kevin worked night and day with contractors and suppliers whilst I organized the documentation, permits and licenses as well as running Annie's in Lake Elsinore!
The business opened in February 2014 and has never looked back. Temecula is our first franchise and we look forward to many more to come. Pop in any time you're in the Temecula area - tell them Annie sent you!