Having a rare weekday in Vallejo itself, I dropped by Gumbah's, a place I had heard good things but never visited, mainly due to its limited hours (Mon-Sat, 11:00a - 2:30p).
As soon as I walked in (I was one of the first customers to enter today), I was given a friendly greeting by the staff behind the counter and the owner, Buddy, who was off to the side reading a newspaper. The interior itself is essentially a modified house, with loads of Chicago sports and other memorabilia spread throughout the interior, along with glass displays featuring good-looking, handmade wood carvings created by Buddy himself (the Santa Claus collection was out in full force.)
Sensing I had never been there before, Buddy asked the kitchen to give me a sample of their signature item, the Italian beef. This thinly sliced roasted beef was tender and tasty, with its juices deliciously soaked into the bread underneath. The full version is served on an Italian roll with either sweet or hot peppers.
I kept that in mind for future visit and instead ordered the New Pastrami Sandwich ($7.80; pastrami delivered to them from Chicago, inside a specially-made rye bun with your choice of hot or regular mustard, plus half of a large dill pickle on the side) as well as a small fries and soda.
I talked with Buddy while my order was being prepared and asked about the thin-crusted Chicago pizza - he said that 95% of the pizza there is this variety and that their version ($8.95) has cheese and sausage and is flash-frozen so you can take it home and bake it later. I also asked about the "anomaly" of a Philly Cheesesteak on the menu and their statement "As our Italian Beef is to Chicago, our Cheesesteak is to Philadelphia" - Buddy mentioned about the lousy versions out here in this area and that if he was going to do it, he was going to do it right. Thus, he personally went out to Philly and arranged to visit various cheesesteak places to learn the "craft".
As for my order, it was delish. The pastrami was very good (best I've had since I can't remember when), the bun light and airy, and there was just enough hot mustard to enhance rather than overpower. The fries were really great - extra crispy with a great, rough-hewn texture that both looked good to the eye and felt good in the mouth. They have other varieties of fries available (garlic, parmesan, etc.), but you'll be just fine with the regular fries, IMHO. At $11 all told, this was a very hearty and satisfying lunch.
This is not a place for vegetarians or people on a diet (as a matter of fact, pretty much all the customers who poured in after started eating were sporting husky frames and/or huge guts.) Meat, fried-foods, and pizza are the order of the day at Gumbah's, and from what I've had so far, I personally just might think about calling in sick to work once in awhile so I can sample some more of its offerings.
136 Tennessee St