The Beat stopped in at Omega Restaurant & Lounge (90 S. Park Victoria Dr.) on a late June weekday. The place was bustling, brimming with customers, many of them regulars. Still, the staff said it’s not quite as busy as it was before Covid. Mid-pandemic, they subsisted on takeout orders for a stretch. When they reopened, the customers returned, but they tend to come out in force on Fridays through Sundays.
The owner, Miguel Gamboa, a Mexican-American immigrant, spoke to us alongside his daughter, Maria Gamboa, who at times translated English into Spanish for him. But Miguel’s warmth and passion transcended words:
“I’m here for almost 20 years,” he said.
Omega’s atmosphere epitomizes the spirit of Milpitas: the restaurant is unadorned and modest, yet it radiates a quiet sense of pride and heart. When you walk in through Omega’s double front doors, you see a gathering space on the right where people can host events, and the main restaurant over to the left; its back wall is lined by a kitchen and a stretch of countertop seating, while most of the area is filled with tables and booths. It’s a plain setting, but that makes it homey and trustworthy. And Omega’s groundedness is mixed with a sense of the eternal – like it has always been here and it always will be.
Miguel bought Omega in 2002. “They’re good people,” he said of the original owners. For a long time, he worked at Country Way in Fremont, pulling double shifts as a busboy, dishwasher, cook, and preparer.
“He was a runner,” Maria explained. “He did everything.”
Miguel recalled, “One of the owners said to us [a couple staff members], ‘Why don’t you guys buy a restaurant?’”
Over time, Miguel saved up $50,000. He heard about a little restaurant in Castro Valley called Capers; it was for sale. He bought Capers with his brother-in-law and owned it for a decade. After 10 years, though, the owners didn’t want to renew the lease.
So Miguel got together with three of his brothers and bought Omega.
It didn’t happen overnight, however. First he staked the place out. He’d park his car in the lot and sit there for days, watching people come and go. After about a month, he was ready to make his move.
“I liked the area,” he said. He liked the staff, the usuals.
One staff member, Tiger Crites, has worked at Omega for 33 years and will retire in July. Julio, the cook, who was in the kitchen, has been there since a couple years before Tiger. Speaking to The Beat, Tiger said the staff is great, namely Miguel. “I’ve been here half my life,” she said. She feels mixed about leaving, but she’s looking forward to horseback riding among family in Utah. Currently, she lives here in Milpitas, but soon she’ll hit the road with her horse in tow.
Before making the buy, Miguel was also impressed by the amount of space. Capers had been small, but Omega was roomier. He knew that he could turn it into something big (both literally and figuratively).
“I don’t have all the money, but with my friends helping me out…five thousand here, five thousand there…” he said.
“They lent him the money,” Maria said.
After two or three months, business was booming: “It was beautiful,” Miguel said. “I don’t have no problem with nobody. I’m happy.”
People order rib-eye steaks for dinner and club sandwiches for lunch, among many other hearty options. Miguel highlighted their breakfast and lunch options as the best Milpitas has to offer. When asked what keeps their regulars loyal, Miguel gave his answer in Spanish: “La familia.”
Maria said Miguel treats the customers like family. Customers who first came in when they were kids still come in as adults. “He’s very social; he likes talking to everybody.”
Miguel pointed to one woman at a table: “See, like the lady over there. She’s alone for a long time…She was having an operation on her hip, she needed help.”
So they dropped off food for her at her home. With a laugh, Maria added that Miguel has even helped some customers wash their cars. Not everyone, just special folks.
“He’s a good boss?” The Beat asked Maria Gamboa.
“He is,” she said with a smile. “He’s a good dad, too.”
Omega is open seven days a week, from 7am to 8pm.