Samim Azizi of Benicia Grill helps out his community.
Photos by Luke George Photography
Maybe you’ve simply passed by Benicia Grill as you’ve driven through the Industrial Park, have stopped in for a meal there once or twice, or perhaps are a regular. It’s off the beaten path and has been part of our community for 16 years—and is still being run by the original mastermind behind the small breakfast and lunch spot, owner Samim Azizi.
His journey in the restaurant business started long before Benicia Grill, however. He’s previously owned another restaurant, worked with gone but not forgotten Lyons and Buttercup in Vallejo. Attaining the position of general manager (within a month of being hired as manager, no less), winning manager of the year, and troubleshooting things like fixing food costs, have all been hats that Azizi has worn over the years. But he wanted his own space where he could bundle up all of this experience while having some control over his own hours.
“I was working 13-14 hours a day, sometimes even 15,” he explains. “I was just really tired and had decided I needed to take a whole year off before. But I’m a workaholic at heart. Restaurants are just my passion. Put me in some other business and I might not make it, but in restaurants I will. I love to cook, and I love to manage.”
Aside from the business and food aspects of owning Benicia Grill, Azizi relishes being in the community.
He’s donated gift certificates and sponsored both Benicia Middle School and Benicia High School, along with donating food to seniors. Over the years, he’s grown quite close with anyone who patronizes his restaurant, too.
“Most of my customers are regulars. They know my name, I know their name,” Azizi says. “I appreciate my customer relationships so much.”
I was lucky enough to get to experience one of these connections during our interview.
“Bye, Jerry!” Azizi yells as we chat. “I’m sorry about that,” he says. “That was one of my regulars. He’s in here every single day with his wife. He orders the breakfast sandwich, and it’s a waffle combo for Joann. We can see them from the kitchen as soon as they come in, so we’ll start their order. By the time they’re sitting at a table, their food is in front of them.”
Whether you’re a regular or a first-timer, Azizi invites you to try Benicia Grill’s food.
You might just catch him cooking your meal himself, too.
“When I see that somebody called out, we’re shorthanded, we’re busy on a Saturday or a Sunday, I’m going in the kitchen to help out,” he says.
Popular choices include comforting biscuits and gravy and fajita omelets with shrimp or steak for breakfast; lunchtime brings filling selections such as a French dip and a mesquite pepper tri-tip sandwich. It’s a great time to come in and take advantage of some serious deals that Benicia Grill is offering right now—there’s both a breakfast and lunch menu with entrees that ring in at less than $10, without sacrificing quality.
“Our bacon has been the same since day one,” he says, referring to his policy of not compromising on the quality of meat he serves. “We never change it. Even [though] prices double, I’m not going to cut corners. I wouldn’t be here without my customers. This restaurant wouldn’t be open. The pandemic was a really hard time to stay open, and the people of Benicia supported me. When the inside was closed, my regulars would order takeout. I’m trying to help out the city of Benicia and surrounding areas by running these specials during tough economic times, when the cost of groceries is skyrocketing. My customers helped me out, now it’s my turn.”
Benicia Grill is open daily from 7:00 am-2:00 pm. You can also order food for delivery through DoorDash, UberEats, and GrubHub.