A Feeling of Familiarity

Made to order with Karlene Niver…

Déjà Vu, the popular Redding breakfast and lunch spot, has relocated from its longtime home in the Lorenz Hotel to new digs on Shasta Street, but when customers stop in, owner Karline Niver hopes they experience a sense of, well, déjà vu.

Photos by Melinda Hunter

To help encourage a feeling of familiarity, Niver says the menu will be relatively unchanged from the one that greeted diners for the past 27 years in the Lorenz location, including more than a dozen omelets and a variety of eggs Benedict dishes. “We’re staying real close to the menu,” she says. “There’s no reason to change.”

The location (the former Charlew’s Tap House) is the big change, but “we didn’t really have a choice,” Niver says. Built in 1901, the Lorenz was showing its age, especially its creaky air conditioning. Downtown Redding’s new parking laws also proved to be an obstacle, particularly for the restaurant’s older customers.

Leaving the iconic building was not easy. “It was a heartbreaker at first, and I got really emotional,” Niver says. But then she started contemplating the upsides of the new location, including its own parking lot and patio designed for outdoor dining. An avowed animal lover, Niver says she’s looking forward to diners bringing their well-behaved dogs while enjoying the patio.

“This location will be a lot better for us,” Niver says. “It will create a better dining experience.”

Karline NIver and her son, Woodson, make a formidable management team. Photos by Melinda Hunter

The new home for Déjà Vu is just the latest dynamic in Niver’s 41-year restaurant career. Niver grew up in Cottonwood and attended Red Bluff High. She got her start in food service as a hostess at the Green Barn and later managed a frozen yogurt shop.

The Snack Box, a breakfast and lunch spot in downtown Red Bluff, was her first foray as a restaurateur. She owned the popular café for 14 years, took a 2-year break and then opened Déjà Vu in 1996.

The breakfast and lunch tradition continues at Deja Vu’s new Shasta Street location after decades in the Lorenz Hotel Building. Photos by Melinda Hunter

The next step, and it was a sizable one, came in 2015 when Niver purchased Gironda’s, a popular Italian restaurant operated by the late Jimmy Gironda and his wife Penny in what used to be Grady’s Steak and Seafood House.

Taking on a dinner house is “a whole different ballgame,” Niver says. In short order, she introduced some personal touches (including renaming it Karline’s) and broadening the Italian cuisine focus by adding entrees like jambalaya.

Photos by Melinda Hunter

Karline’s enjoys a sterling reputation, with repeat customers praising its food, service and ambiance. A sample from one of dozens of five-star Yelp reviews: “What a nice hidden gem for Redding! This place really knows what they are doing from the welcoming greeting at the door, stand-out service and very well-made food.”

“I eat, breathe and drink restaurants, and honestly, it’s not for the feint of heart,” Niver says. “It was hard when I was younger and having kids. It was not easy.” Those kids – Whitney Hansen, Annie Galbraith and Woodson Galbraith – all spent time as Déjà Vu employees and Woodson is preparing to continue the family restaurant legacy. Between Déjà Vu and Karline’s, Niver employs 48 people.

Photos by Melinda Hunter

What part of the restaurant business does Niver love the most? “It’s probably the people. I do like to cook, but the people I wait on and also my employees. I call it ‘herding the cats,’” She says with a laugh.•

Déjà Vu Café • 1177 Shasta St., Redding (530) 244-4272 • Hours: 7 am to 2 pm daily

Karline’s • 1100 Center St., Redding
(530) 244-7663 •
Hours: 4 to 9 pm Sunday-Thursday; 4 pm to 10 pm Friday-Saturday

Karline’s remains a go-to destination for fine dining. Photos by Melinda Hunter
About Jon Lewis

Jon Lewis is a Redding-based writer with 37 years of experience. A longtime San Francisco Giants fan, his interests include golf, fishing and sharing stories about people, places and things. He can be reached at [email protected]

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