When it comes to classic American cuisine, there is nothing more charming than a diner and with fewer of these establishments remaining across the United States, places like Shakers in South Pasadena are landmarks of our nation’s history and culture. Approaching its 50th anniversary, Shakers has been a hometown staple since 1971.
Founded by Henry “Hank” Yost, the restaurant was originally named the Salt Shaker and located on Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena. The classic diner became a hit with folks lining around the block on a daily basis, and Yost went on to open three more locations: Glendale in 1972, South Pasadena in 1974 and Burbank in 1986. In 1990, the word ‘salt’ was dropped from the name after the FDA released a negative report on sodium—and thus, Shakers was born.
These days, the business is run by second-generation owners, David Yost and Randy Hoffman. Despite handing over the reins to his son and son-in-law, Hank still enjoys coming into the office and being involved in the business. Together, David and Randy have continued to expand and upgrade their portfolio of restaurants, which includes the Hawaiian-themed Canoe House (formerly Wild Thyme Café for 23 years) and retro ‘50s-inspired Diner on Main in Alhambra. Shakers in Burbank is closed, as is the original location on Arroyo Parkway, and the Glendale location was transformed into Central Grille. As of July 14, the Central Grille location (formerly Central Park Cafe) in Pasadena will be closing its doors after 15 years. The partners are also part owners of the recently opened Proper Restaurant and Bar in La Cañada Flintridge.
“The restaurant business isn’t easy but we’re blessed with these great locations,” Hoffman said. “David and I have done multiple restaurant concepts together over the years—some worked, some didn’t. They’re all different and have their own personalities. Every third or fourth try and you eventually get a home run. Customers love the casualness of Shakers, not to mention that it’s a great location with lots of parking. They also love the staff, many of whom have worked there a long time—the great customer service keeps people coming back.”
“Running multiple restaurant locations is a challenge, but Randy and I both like and accept that aspect of the job,” added David Yost. “Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose—that’s just the nature of the business. Thankfully, Shakers is a winner. We take a lot of pride in ownership. It’s really nice to be able to work for ourselves in entrepreneurial roles. We’ve grown up with our staff. They’re like family to us and to our customers. They’ll watch your kids grow up, then when your kids are all grown up, they’ll come in with their kids. I grew up eating Shakers food, my kids grew up eating here and now Randy and I are grandparents. It’s truly a generational place.”
General Manager Sergio Martinez has worked at Shakers since 2000, where he started out as a waiter. “I’ve worked at corporate places before and there is a big difference,” he said. “Shakers is very family-oriented and we’re encouraged to be creative, so those were definitely big attractions for me. It’s a great place to work at.”
Another longtime employee is Mary Naredo, who has worked as a server at Shakers for 33 years. “Besides the good service, customers love the homemade food,” she said. “From our soups to our breakfast omelets, everything is made fresh in our kitchen. We’ve been here a long time and we treat our customers like family. We make sure to take care of all their needs. Our answer is always, ‘Yes, we can.’”
The menu at Shakers features a wide variety of classic American fare, ranging from burgers and pork chop to sandwiches and salads. The California Club Sandwich, Baked Chicken Teriyaki and Chicken Pot Pie are some of the most popular dishes. Breakfast is served all day and includes favorites such as the Country Eggs Benedict, which has a buttermilk biscuit with country gravy and turkey sausage, as well as the Great Eggs Incognito, made with scrambled eggs, sharp cheddar and some zesty chili on top. On Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., customers can order the Belgian Waffle Combo, which includes two eggs and bacon or sausage for $8.95. Daily dinner specials, which offer guests a choice of an entrée and homemade soup or a salad, are served from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Shakers’ bakery is also extremely popular and makes everything from scratch, including its famous zucchini bread and carrot cake. As of this week, Shakers has introduced two new dessert items: butter cake à la mode with vanilla ice cream and a mixed berry compote, as well as molten lava cake à la mode.
“As far as food goes, we make everything from scratch and our quality is extremely good,” Yost said. “We serve more than just bacon and eggs or burgers and meatloaf. We strive to be relevant and unique. We offer a variety of specials, keep things simple and our prices are reasonable.”
Shakers is making another upgrade with the addition of a Healthy Cuisine Menu, which was created in consultation with a nutritionist. It will have breakfast, lunch and dinner options and follow popular health trends, offering everything from turkey sausage and vegetarian burgers to breakfast bowls and more. The restaurant also serves beer and wine, recently adding Justin Cabernet Sauvignon and Talbott Vineyards Kali Hart Chardonnay to the wine list. Future plans include a full liquor bar that will serve various cocktails and craft beers.
Movie buffs and television fans will be delighted to learn that Shakers is no stranger to Tinseltown, having appeared in countless feature films such as Old School, as well as a long list of television shows that includes “Big Love,” “CSI,” “Parenthood” and “X-Files.” Most recently, the diner was featured on an episode of Conan O’Brien with guest star Kevin Hart.
Community involvement is extremely important to Shakers, which regularly partners with different organizations such as church groups and school clubs, offering them the opportunity to raise money during Charity Nights at its different restaurant locations. Twenty-five percent of what each group spends that evening on food and drink is donated to their charity of choice by Shakers. The restaurant is also a tee sponsor for the annual South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Golf Tournament and continues to support various local causes.
“We want to be one with the community,” Yost said. “The reason why we’re able to succeed year in and year out is because we do a lot for them and they do a lot for us. We plan to be here for many more decades and will continue to support our community.”
Shakers is located at 601 Fair Oaks Ave. in South Pasadena. It is open Monday – Sunday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. For more information, call (626) 799-9168 or visit shakersrestaurant.net.
Shakers Business Spotlight appeared in the print edition of the South Pasadena Review on 7.12.19. Support Local Business.