PUBLISHED IN THE MAY/JUNE ISSUE OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA LIFE MAGAZINE. (Read text-only version below, or download published version -with photos—here in Cloudup:
The Breakfast Club: 5 Killer Breakfast Places to Kick-Start Your Day
Chocolatine French Bakery, Thousand Oaks
Ooh, la la. This French jewel enjoys crepe success as a modest, but lovely, place to enjoy authentic, fruity French crepes (no rubber used here), croquettes, quiches and a slew of pastries with panache. Co-owner Sandrine Gaudin is warm and personable—making you feel like you’ve just walked into a friend’s country French farmhouse. Evidence of this family-like atmosphere can be seen in the number of repeat customers. “You can’t go wrong with anything on this menu,” swears one loyal customer. That’s not hyperbole. After a cup of c’est délicieux cappuccino, and a croquette filled with tomato, cheese and spinach or a French onion quiche, you’ll be ready to take on the world—at least until around 2:00 pm, when some Chocolatine goodies-to-go (French pastries) will be just the sugar bump you need to get over that “afternoon slump.” A couple of macarons and you’ll soon be dancin’ the “macaroni”—in five different flavors, no less. http://www.chocolatine.net
San Diego County
Breakfast Republic, San Diego (five locations)
It’s a funky hipster hangout—with killer potatoes. And being hipster-owned, you know perfection is in its by-laws, by golly. Let’s start with the coffee, which is excellent. Even better, the coffee cups are 2-3 times larger than normal—ensuring that you’ll be properly caffeinated before going out to “seize the day.” Food portions are massive, too—and the food itself, savory. Order the Veggie Scramble and you’ll get veggies cooked to perfection, al dente. To go a bit spicier, order the ginormous Jambalaya dish and top it off with three over-easy eggs. So good, it’ll make you want to throw a “fais-do-do” (Cajun dance party).
Now, the potatoes. Word to the wise: get the upgrade. You may not get a complimentary cocktail and extra leg room, but you’ll definitely find more room in your stomach for these savory spuds made with brussels sprouts and bacon—spiced with rosemary. The secret is in the soaking—potatoes sit overnight in salt, then they’re seasoned with a dash of balsamic vinegar. Most dishes include a sourdough English muffin with fresh whipped butter. “Whip it … whip it good”—Breakfast Republic is definitely one republic for which you’ll stand—saluting its near-gastronomical perfection. http://www.breakfastrepublic.com
Los Angeles County
Pedalers Fork, Calabasas
They’re wheelin’! If you’re not into forking over a small fortune for your Eggs Florentine, think cycling is cool, and that breakfast items like 6 Devils on Horseback sound like an intriguing way to gear up your day, then you’ll want to check out Pedalers Fork in Calabasas. This open, light-filled eatery offers generous indoor and outdoor seating, their own fresh-brewed “10-Speed” coffee, and a place to hang your bike. Whether you’re stoked for spokes (they have their own bike shop) or are clueless in the saddle, Pedalers Fork offers a chill vibe, a sweet view (lush foliage instead of car fenders), and tasty breakfast fare that’s sure to pedal your palate in a healthy direction. A few of the more notable menu items are: Blueberry Banana Quinoa Johnny Cakes, 6 Egg Whites Scramble, Raw Seed Chia Porridge and Royal, a smokin’ smoked salmon dish that includes poached eggs, spinach, caramelized onion, hollandaise and an English muffin. Yummilicious! http://www.pedalersfork.com
The Ramos House Cafe, San Juan Capistrano (Historic Los Rios district)
Grandma goes gourmet à la California cool in this cozy, open-air breakfast spot in South County that’s known for its historic, artsy vibe and southern-style morning repast by the tracks. Even with the clamorous choo choo of the passing locomotives and pricey weekend brunch, it’s hard to complain about an epicurean eatery where the chef-owner lives in the house (circa 1918), wines are kept in the cellar, herbs are grown in the garden and ice cream is churned out back. All ingredients are organic and everything is made from scratch—beautifully served on artful plating. Wildly popular and delectable dishes include Blueberry Pain Perdu with Lemon Curd, Crab Hash with Bacon Scramble, Mixed Wild Mushroom Hash, and warm cinnamon apple beignets served steaming hot on a bed of rich crème anglaise and caramel. All this, and heavenly mimosas, too. http://www.ramoshouse.co
Arcade Coffee Roasters
What happens after a ’90s video store gets laid to rest? It gets reincarnated into Arcade Coffee Roasters in Riverside—considered by locals to be the best java joint in town. It’s also the fulfillment of a dream for co-owners Stevie Hasemeyer and Shane Levario, who were tired of Riverside being regarded as LA’s “backwards cousin” that all the cool people wanted to get away from. “We wanted to make something here that people could excited about … to make a cultural shift,” said Hasemeyer.
That shift has happened. Established in 2013, Arcade Coffee Roasters lives and breathes specialty coffee. If coffee roasting is defined as “the craft of transformation,” than Arcade has struck just the right notes, creating taste-bud altering “music” with its mochas … and cappuccinos, and espressos, and lattes.
Arcade’s impressive growth has now expanded into hearty, yet elevated, weekend brunch fare. The star experience is Chef Marissa’s buttery grits with a poached egg nestled on top and the perfect touch of peppery spice. For meat-eaters, Arcade offers a roasted pork sandwich made with fresh, rustic sourdough bread—a fave brunch item that manages to catch all of the pan drippings without losing its marvelous crunch.
If you’re looking for a “familiar” coffee shop ambiance with couches and chairs crammed into tight spaces (where no one knows your name), you may want to go elsewhere. Arcade is barebones, with an open, industrial, minimalist decor that may feel too “cold” for some. Instead, the warmth is found in their superb coffee, hearty breakfast fare and, just as important to its people-loving owners, “shared moments and a sense of belonging for all.”