Somewhere on Highway 101. Okay, it's Oceanside. Okay, I am fresh off the Coaster and onboard the 318 bus. Starving. I mention food to Miguel, the driver. "Well, there's Angelo's a couple more blocks down here," he says. "The plates they give you are loaded."
I'm supposed to be looking for a recording studio. Hank'n me're gonna record a song for his great aunt's 100th birthday. Yeah.
But food first. Miguel drops me off at West Street. I see where he's talking about. Square, red-and-white burger-looking place. Trouble is, just before I got off, I noticed this, like, terra cotta house with a balcony and folks sitting out slurping joes and clacking away at their laptop keyboards. The sign said, "Motorcycle Cafe."
This I gotta see. Hmm. There's something about a "$3.00 breakfast" of toasted bagel with cream cheese and 20-oz. coffee. Bit lite for my requirements. Still, I check out the big wooden deck, then enter a room with a yellow counter and, whoa, pictures of bikes everywhere. They've got glass tabletops set on tires, one of those mini-motorcycles on display, an upright piano, and under the counter glass, which you can sit up to on stools, hundreds of Harley-Davidson trading cards. Behind the counter stands this willowy, beautiful, Oriental-looking gal. Helen Fischetti. I know that's her name because the paper menu has a color pic of her draped over a Harley in a Stars and Stripes bikini. "The one and only Owner and Founder," it says. "I'm the only person who serves you during your every single entire visit ever!"
And here's the incredible thing. There's a guy sitting a little farther down the counter, eating one of those toasted bagels and drinking a coffee. Shawn - that's his name - turns out to be a musician who's in town for a recording session at the exact studio I'm supposed to be checking out. I order a medium coffee ($1.75) from Helen.
I ask how she came to set this place up. "I was always interested in bikes, and riding," she says. "But the only places we could go were alcohol places, and I don't drink. So I decided to start this, where you can come and have any kind of coffee, and a little bit of breakfast."
Turns out she is Dutch-Indonesian-Chinese, has qualifications coming out her ears, and also does modeling. "I got a degree in business at UCSD," she says. "And three degrees, in math, history of music, and piano performance. I financed all that studying by giving piano lessons for ten years."
Wow. Gal with four degrees is running a biker coffeehouse while pursuing a modeling career?
But no food. Not enough for this big boy, anyway. So I walk south, heading for Angelo's, when, Oh Lord. I get hijacked again. This time it's a bunch of people sitting on a patio in front of a blue-roofed stand-alone building. They've got big fat plates of breakfast in front of them. "Coast Highway Cafe and Grill," says the sign.
So, in sight of Angelo's, what the heck, I walk into the Coast Highway and take my place at the counter. You can see it's been around, but someone's recently hit the refresh button. The booths are cream or teal, the carpet's maroon, they have a TV set full-time on video of tiny figures surfing giant rollers, and yes, longboards have become wall art. So has a scowling tiki.
The two waitresses are shouting out to customers coming in.
Paola leads the chorus. She's part of the family that took this place over five months ago. Before them, she says, it was called everything from Cheryl's to the Coast Highway Cafe to La Bahia. Now it's back to Coast Highway Cafe and Grill.
"Where are you from?" says a waitress to a couple just sitting down. "Austria," says the boy. "We're touring California."
Me, I'm touring the menu. Two-egg breakfast's $4.49. Bacon or sausage and eggs is two bucks more, and the "Oceanside Combo" (pancakes, French toast or waffles with eggs) is $6.49 too. 'Course the hungrier I am, the greedier I get. I'm thinking the "Coast Classic," $7.49. It's two eggs with bacon, sausage, or a ham steak, with pancakes, French toast or Belgian waffle.
I go for that, with French toast and the ham steak, just because ham steak sounds like more food than sausage or bacon. And when it comes, yeah, there's plenty. My $1.59 coffee has endless refills too, which I need to plough through the French toast and ham. Yes, Hank would throw up at the cholesterol thought of it all. But it does the job.
On my way out, I see prices next door at Angelo's. They look a little lower. But I ain't complaining. I'll check him out next time.
There's bound to be a next time, right? Just as soon as Hank and I sign our recording deal. Lessee. Gonna need a manager, an entourage...
The Place: The Motorcycle Cafe, 624 South Coast Highway (Highway 101), Oceanside, 760-433-1829
Type of Food: Only snacks
Prices: Breakfast toasted bagel with cream cheese and 16-oz. coffee, $3.00; coffees, teas from $1.75-$3.80
Hours: 6:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m, Monday-Friday; 7: 00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Buses: 101, 302, 318
Nearest Bus Stop: On South Coast Highway at Wisconsin
The Place: Coast Highway Cafe and Grill, 1034 South Coast Highway, Oceanside
Type of Food: American, Mexican
[2009 Editor's Note: The Motorcycle Cafe has since closed.]