Tuesday, May 29, 2007
This past Sunday, I dragged James - kicking and screaming - out of the house on Sunday morning to go to the Hillcrest Farmers Market, located at the DMV parking lot in Hillcrest. We had originally planned to have breakfast beforehand at the new Cafe One Three, nearby on Park Boulevard, but when we arrived just before 9 AM (gotta get out early on Sunday morning!) they were sweeping out the place. We figured they would probably open at 9, but when James hopped out to ask, the answer was 10. That seemed a little late to us, even for Sunday, and we weren't about to wait an hour to eat. Next!
I remembered reading something on Chowhound about another new place that recently opened up over on Adams, Cafe 2121, so we swung over there. It too was empty, and though it was open, I looked at the menu and saw very few breakfast options.
We have sort of had our fill of the Parkhouse Eatery, so we continued back down Park Boulevard to the aptly named Cafe on Park, located just South of University in a little strip of stores that includes a bondage shop and a pet wash. This place that has been there for ages, but somehow we had never been. (Probably because we always went to Parkhouse.) It also used to be quite crowded, as I recall, and we aren't much for waiting to eat breakfast.
The menu is full of both standard breakfast meals and quirky combos like Cap'n Crunch pancakes, which I knew I'd seen somewhere before... In fact, I noticed several similarities between the menu here and that of the Hash House, as well as the pots of homemade jam on the tables and the pancakes the size of bicycle tires. It turns out that the owner and chef of the Hash House actually worked here for five years before moving on to open his own place. As it turns out, Hash House is really just a redux of this place.
We ordered conventionally - poached eggs with bacon, potatoes and toast for me, and a waffle combo for James - a waffle with eggs and bacon. Coffee all around.
The eggs were perfectly poached, with runny yolks but fully cooked whites, the applewood-smoked bacon was crisp, and the O'Brien-style potatoes included onions and strips of jalapeno peppers. I spooned the eggs over the potatoes and ate them together like a hash. The only problem was that there was a little too much butter-like substance on the toast. That's easy to fix though, I'd just ask for it dry next time. The jam on the table was homemade, but I couldn't tell what kind it was. I asked our server and he said he wasn't sure, but the owner's mother had made it. I think it was grapefruit, based on the color.
James' waffle was a little underbaked, but it had good buttermilk flavor. His eggs and bacon looked good as well. (They don't supply real maple syrup automatically, but it is available for an extra $1.25.)
The dining room is a cheerful mix of funky artsy-industrial and retro-country diner, with concrete floors, a cast concrete bar with varnished wood top, and butter-yellow walls. Currently they are hosting an art exhibit of some brightly colored fairly realistic-looking birds, mounted on the walls. (I wasn't facing them, but James claimed they looked real enough that they were creeping him out.)
The beverages (other than coffee) are served in mason jars, and the menu has a distinctive home-style flair to it - much like the Hash House. The coffee was good, and they kept it coming. They serve breakfast and lunch daily, and Thursday thru Saturday they offer dinner as well. (On the days they are open for dinner, they close between 2 PM and 5 PM, other days, they close at 2.)
By the time we left, close to ten, they had a few people stacked up outside, but not nearly as many as you'd find at Hash House or Parkhouse Eatery. I'm not sure if this place has been forgotten, if we were just early, or if it was just slow because of the holiday weekend - but we felt like we'd discovered something. It's always nice to find something new right under your nose! Given that I plan to start shopping the Farmers' Market more often, I'm sure we'll be back on many Sunday mornings in the months to come.
Coming Soon - Part II, Shopping the Farmers' Market.
Cafe on Park
3831 Park Boulevard
San Diego, CA
open daily for breakfast and lunch, 9-2. Reopen 5-9 for dinner, Thurs-Saturday.
recommended dishes - the poached eggs and O'Brien potatoes (a friend of mine also used to rave about the Buggs Benny - their special fancy version of eggs benedict.)