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Aunt Emma’s: A Restaurant and a Historic Site

Aunt Emma’s on E Street in Chula Vista is not only a great little place to eat an American breakfast, it also happens to be a historic site. If you don’t believe me, check out the comprehensive timeline of Aunt Emma history at the South Bay Historical Society.

Of course, you’ll want to try a dish from their wide selection of pancakes and crepes. I enjoyed their signature Swedish crepes served with cranberry butter and powdered sugar.

Aunt Emma's

They’ve also got buckwheat or peanut butter pancakes, nutella or the cajeta (pecan) crepes. They have old fashioned potato pancakes, Belgian waffles, the Big Breakfast! and South of the Border delights (bistec ranchero and huevos con chorizo).

The specialties for this long-running restaurant are, of course, biscuits & gravy, french toast, eggs benedict and the Monte Cristo (French toast with grilled ham and swiss cheese).


Aunt Emma’s has a lot to brag about, and they do, all along the walls in their waiting area. The City of Chula Vista commended them in a proclamation for their 50th anniversary. While I could summarize the proclamation, instead I defer to those aficianados of restaurant history, who will want to read the charming document in full:


City of Chula Vista, California

Commending Aunt Emma’s Pancake Restaurants

50th Anniversary in the City of Chula Vista, California

Whereas, Chula Vista’s Aunt Emma’s Pancake Restaurant has satisfied hungry customers’ desire for pancakes for the last 50 years, a favorite family restaurant, Aunt Emma’s has kept prices low and put customer service first; and

Whereas, their motto “It’s Always Pancake Time”, was coined by the founder Robert Roland in 1959. His friend, Kile Morgan, National City Councilman and Mayor from 1966 to 1986, built the restaurant close to residential neighborhoods, lodging, the MTS Trolley Station and the Chula Vista Nature Center. Aunt Emma’s stayed in the Roland family for 39 years; and

Whereas, Nikos “Nilo” Gelastopoulos grew up in a village of 500 residents near the ancient city of Thesaloniki, Greece. Niko took his brother’s wise advice and purchased Aunt Emma’s in 1998. Following his brother’s footsteps to come to America, Nike was introduced to the restaurant business by working in San Diego restaurants, first as a part-time dishwasher; and

Whereas, under Niko’s ownership for the past 11 years, the establishment flourishes with time-tested pancake recipes, waffles, omlettes and south of the border specialties. The menu includes 24 varieties of pancakes, delicious strawberry, apple and cajeta crepes, other breakfast items, and lunch and specialty sandwiches. A cook and waitress have been employees for 20 years; and

Whereas, coming from far and near, customers are eager to share their stories of how they have frequented the restaurant over the years. Aunt Emma’s is a popular spot for family gatherings and special occasions; and

Whereas, Niko calls Chula Vista home with his wife Ana and their two daughters, Isabella and Alexa. We applaud Niko Gelastopoulos for his entrepreneurial spirit, concern for residents and contribution to our community,

Now, therefore, I, Cheryl Cox, 39th Mayor of the City of Chula Vista, California, together with City Council, do hereby comment Aunt Emma’s Pancake Restaurant for its 50th year anniversary in the City of Chula Vista.



Even better, a charming publication called Penny Saver also ran a review about Aunt Emma’s by Restaurant Reviewer David Nelson:

Dining Out

Aunt Emma’s Pancakes

What could be more American than pancakes for breakfast (other than apple pie, that is)?

Well, not much, probably, but if you say “everybody loves pancakes,” you have to understand that the phrase encompasses peoples around the globe, since pancakes are by no means an American invention, even if you refer to them as flapjacks or buckwheat cakes. An age-old custom in Bristol, England is the annual pancake race, in which housewives compete to see who can make batter from scratch and get delicious, steaming-hot cakes on the table the most quickly. Germans, Swedes, Frenchmen (they call pancakes crepes) and other nationalities all have their version of this breakfast favorite, which many consider a good meal any time of day.

Look for old-fashioned, all-American buttermilk pancakes at the venerable Aunt Emma’s Pancakes on E Street in Chula Vista, along with sweet-tart German crepes ($3.75, and the secret to these eggy treats is the topping of powdered sugar and lemon juice) and such one-of-a-kind novelties as mango pancakes ($5.25). This establishment will be 40 years old this year, and in celebration of four decades of flipping pancakes (how many have been served, you have to wonder, but it must be millions), this comfortable, family-style restaurant continues to serve a full menu of pleasing breakfast items, as well as a hearty lunch list that is available until Aunt Emma’s 3 P.M. closing hour. The pancake menu numbers no fewer than 19 distinct versions, and veers off in directions both plain and fancy. For my money, it’s hard to top the basic, old-fashioned buttermilk cakes ($2.95 for a satisfying short stack, $4.55 for a full stack that will challenge most appetites), which have an ever-so-slightly tart flavor and a good, rich consistency, and are perfect when spread with shipped butter, of which Aunt Emma’s serves a generous amount, along with plenty of syrup. But if you’re in the mood, the menu goes well beyond the tasty basic to offer coconut cakes ($3.55, and topped with powdered sugar), delicious blueberry pancakes ($3.55) and, if you’re in the mood for something cosmopolitan, “Manhattan” pancakes that are made with plenty of eggs in the batter and rolled, blintz-style, around a sour cream filling ($3.85). And the Swedish pancakes are thin and delicate, as they should be ($3.85). There’s much more, including eggs, omelets, and a full selection of luncheon sandwiches.

Aunt Emma’s Pancakes serves daily at 700 E Street in Chula Vista.

Best Of The Best Award

Aunt Emma’s was also honored as one of the five most popular restaurants category in the Chula Vista area for 2011.

Best of all, this place is meant for meeting friends and hanging around for several cups of coffee.

However, I have a necessary tip: Aunt Emma’s is already discovered, so show up early in the morning. By 9am on weekdays as well as weekends you’ll have to wait in a long line.

Address: 700 E St, Chula Vista, CA 91910. (619) 427-2722

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One Response to Aunt Emma’s: A Restaurant and a Historic Site

  1. sloanranger December 28, 2015 at 7:33 AM #

    I do love Aunt Emma’s but rather lament their early closing time? I can recall back a few years when they were open quite late & busy then, too – but not in recent memory.

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