Harry’s Café is known for its diverse menu.
WRITTEN BY JORDAN VENEMA
PHOTOS BY DEBBIE CUNNINGHAM
Owner and chef Harry Luong greets customers at Harry’s Café. Luong is a strong supporter of local law enforcement and keeps a display of patches given to him by customers
Blink and you'll probably miss it, the small mom-and-pop diner on 19th Street whose only flair is an exterior neon sign. Even its name, Harry's Café, is a rather unassuming designation considering the size and diversity of its menu. Still, locals have had no trouble finding the little place, and it's earned a special place in their hearts.
Owner and chef Harry Luong was born in Vietnam to Chinese parents, though he has called Sacramento home for 40 years. His menu reflects his mix of cultural backgrounds by including traditional Chinese dishes, Vietnamese pho, and classic American breakfasts.
So why the large menu? It's simple.
"Everybody has a different taste," Luong says.
For all his culinary diversity, Luong never was taught how to cook, and though he had long wanted to open a restaurant, he waited until his children were grown and out of the house.
He is a self-taught cook who learned by watching his mother cook pho and picking up tips while employed at a Chinese restaurant. Otherwise, the menu is uniquely his own.
"I've never copied off of anybody," Luong says. "I just try it. Eat it. And if I like it, then I do it."
Many say the pancakes at Harry’s Café are the best in town. Owner and chef Luong makes them from scratch
No. 41 on the Harry’s Café menu, fried rice with eggs on top, is the restaurant’s most popular item
This unconventional education has allowed Luong to break the culinary mold, and a few eggs along the way: It's a simple addition, but by serving eggs atop fried rice, Luong created his most popular dish. No. 41 on the menu, it's a must-have.
But even more surprisingly simple (and delicious) are the Harry's Café pancakes, which Luong makes from scratch.
"I cannot tell you the recipe," he says with a laugh.
It's a shame because they really are the best pancakes in town: subtly crispy around the edges, with a soft, buttery center.
As for other recommendations, Luong suggests the oxtail stew, served Wednesday and Thursday, and short-rib stew, served Friday through Sunday.
"[The stews] I created by myself," he says. "Nobody does that."
Though it's only a little more than a decade old, expect Harry's to be around for a very long time. Its owner is determined.
"I run this business by myself, and I don't want to open another one," Luong says. "I just want to keep my eyes on the customer service."
Freelance writer Jordan Venema is a fan of wild stories, impetuous traveling, loud music, and all food ... but mostly of his son, Cassian, the greatest storyteller this side of the prime meridian.
2026 16th St., Sacramento
916-448-0088 • Find Harry's Café on Facebook.
Open 7 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Tues. – Sat., 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sun.