May 21, 2009

Sunny with a Chance of Pancakes

If ever there was a city in love with breakfast, it would be LA. People line up for a block, wait for an hour, do whatever they can to get that seat--particularly if it's a place to see and be seen. Take Toast on West 3rd, for example. People in their saucer-sized glasses wait like they've never had a meal, meanwhile hoping to be discovered? Make friends? Chances are, kid, that no one is going to take one look at you eating your sunny-side up with a side of veggie sausage and declare you the next It-girl. Don't get me wrong. Toast has some pretty good morning fare. The Favorite Scramblette is worth a visit, but with a city practically dedicated to l'art du déjeuner, why not explore a bit and try other places?

Large map here.

Your first stop should be Kings Road Cafe (8261 Beverly Blvd.). These people know how to do a lot of things well including seating people quickly and offering unusually friendly service, but their coffee is simply stupendous. With each giant cup (make that a bowl) brewed by hand, this is the stuff that gets repeatedly noticed in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. If you're daring enough to eat alone, just grab a newspaper at the shop next door, order their marvelous blueberry granola pancakes and take in the smell of that cup of Arabica beans that Kings Road has been perfecting for 19 years.

Basix Cafe (8333 Santa Monica Blvd.) is as friendly as its Tex-Mex neighbor Marix and has just as much of a perfect people-watching patio. With an enormous menu containing everything from seasonal fruit pancakes to crabcakes benedict, this West Hollywood stop is, while sometimes crowded, a good bet for brunch outside. If you're not in the mood for (bottomless) coffee, word on the street is that they also make amazing bloody marys and mimosas. Cheers!

Though Cafe Verona (201 S. La Brea Av.) is next to an EZ Lube, don't let that fool you. Their charming patio and tables painted with flowers make up for the neighbors and the French Toast All'Italiana (worth every ounce of sugar) practically makes you forget that you're in the middle of Los Angeles. If you're not in the mood for sweet, the menu has sixteen frittatas (try the Frittata Afrodisiaca) that are all big enough for two. With delicious food, proximity to the umpteen hip La Brea shops and never any wait, this little spot is worth venturing to.

On the breakfast alley that is Beverly Blvd., Lulu's Cafe (7149 Beverly Blvd.) is the last stop. Situated near La Brea Ave., Lulu's is Toast's younger sister--less popular, less pretentious and not so serious. With the slogan"Where breakfast is the most important meal of the day!", Lulu's has a menu with a myriad of ways to get your eggs: standards like Eggs Florentine and the house scramble to the interesting Shakshuka and Eggs Giermo. If you're a vegetarian? Lulu's also serves up mountains of pancakes and a pretty tasty tofu scramble.

Set in a charming old bungalow in Los Feliz, the Alcove Cafe & Bakery (1929 Hillhurst Ave.) is a neighborhood favorite. Though I promised suggestions without waiting lines, once you get dangerous and order a homemade moon pie for breakfast here, all memory of the ten minutes standing with strangers will escape you. Beyond the yummy cake counter and all of the farm fresh brunch
options, this place is also a stop with a cool story (and its own brand of chocolate!). The chess table owner Tom Trellis placed inside the cafe is now a holding box for many "Dear Chess Table" letters, mementos and other items that regulars and visitors leave behind...inspiration for Frank Warren's Post Secret perhaps? You can see the full story here.

In Silver Lake, Home Restaurant (2500 Riverside Drive, sister to the Los Feliz place with the same name) is a comfort-food bistro with funky decor and a whole lot of patio. For under $10, the build-your-own Benedict or the All American fill you up and are always good bets. If you aren't feeling like anything standard, the Green Thumb mixes three fantastic ingredients--tomatoes, bread and avocado--in a mashed-up pile of goodness. After you stuff yourself, take your bicycle over to the lake and through the neighborhood and work off breakfast. Between the scenery (check out the Neutra houses on Silver Lake Blvd.) and the curious shops like Yolk (seen in I Love You, Man) you can easily make it a well-spent day.

Bloom Cafe (5544 Pico Blvd.) is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it kind of place, but it's Pico Boulevard's best chance of ever being hip. The organic fare and green decor make for an eatery that is a break from the usual breakfast diner scene. In fact, even their cucumber and lemon water seems good for you. The lemon ricotta pancakes or the organic granola are lovely with a glass of their Mint Magic tonic (celery, apple juice and mint). If you're looking for something hearty, try Los Huevos Rancheros, a savory helping of tortillas, eggs, avocado and cheese, or the Coco Tella (coconut and nutella) french toast .

If you've watched Fried Green Tomatoes, then you've been to S & W Country Diner (9748 Washington Blvd.). With tons of retro curiosities adorning the walls and a cash-only policy, it's like you've stepped back in time in the heart of Culver City. What makes this greasy spoon worth the trip, besides the actual and tasty fried tomatoes, is the simplicity of the menu choices and the no-frills service--you wait your turn, you get a booth and you get poured a familiar white cup of coffee. If you're feeling Southern, this joint serves up grits or biscuits and gravy ; for those with carbphobia, try the two eggs and Louisiana sausage.

In Western Europe, a normal breakfast is coffee or tea and a pastry. In Santa Monica, the best breakfast is Amandine Cafe's (12225 Wilshire Blvd.) chocolate croissant with a hot mug of café au lait. This quaint bakery and cafe on Wilshire Blvd. is like stepping into France with heaps of fresh baguettes and a daily quiche. If you're in the mood for more, they make plenty of omelettes including the Omelette Ratatouille or the Omelette Amandine filled with ham, gruyere and sauce béchanel. This place always has prompt service and if you're just in to order some tarts and croissants for breakfast on the beach, they'll gladly help you decide.

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