9945 Campo Road (at North Barcelona), Spring Valley
If you’re a squirrel reading this, I have a great restaurant for you: Brent Fogwell’s six-acre macadamia tree farm in Spring Valley. He just lets the nuts drop from his 300 trees. But better hurry. He’s got around 500 squirrels there already. The man could be selling these macadamia nuts — have you seen how much they cost in the supermarket? But Brent can’t be bothered. He’s happy the squirrels help him out. “It’s free labor!” he says. “They clear the nuts off the ground. Takes them about four months each season. We reckon each squirrel collects 40 nuts every day.” He sighs. “Only in Spring Valley. I love it. I’m from L.A. This is a kind of Sleepy Hollow.”
Mind you, Campo Road ain’t exactly Sleepy Hollow. Not with this traffic. But here inside Sunrise Deli, where we’re yakking, it does feel homey. The place is a little pink-and-green box with a deck, a one-time taco joint at the corner of Campo and Barcelona. Everyone in here seems to know Jorge and Raúl, the brothers who started the deli 11 years ago. Half the items on their menu come from customers’ requests. Like Starvin’ Marvin’s burger, a half-pounder on grilled sourdough with mushrooms, avocado, bacon, and cheese ($6.99); or Jose’s Special, a triple-decker sandwich with pastrami, roast beef, and Swiss on grilled sourdough ($6.99); or Brandy’s Healthy Salad ($6.99), loaded with broccoli, cauliflower, and seeds like pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower.
“Brandy’s a health nut,” Jorge explains.
Brent’s waiting for his fish sandwich ($5.99). Me, I’m looking for a nice, big, greasy breakfast. It’s about 8:30 a.m. Crack o’ dawn, for me.
Have to say, prices are good. Egg muffin plus orange juice is $2.99. Breakfast burrito’s $3.50. I’m starting to think big.
“Any specials?” I ask.
“Down there,” says Jorge. He points over to my side of the counter. Oh, yes. Whole list written on a whiteboard nailed to the counter front. Lessee…the #1, pancakes with two eggs and bacon, is $4.99. So is a salami scramble, with home-fry potatoes and toast. So is the chorizo scramble. Eggs Benedict seems a deal at $5.45, with spuds. Pork chops and eggs and potatoes and toast runs $6.25. Louisiana sausage and eggs is $5.95, and, hey, there’s a couple of healthy ones: a salmon scramble for $6.45, and #11, Healthy Breakfast, a mess of eggs and veggies, cottage cheese, and fruit, and, just like Brandy’s salad, loaded with pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds ($6.45). Most expensive special’s the steak and eggs, $8.99.
At these prices, greed sets in. ’Specially since, right below the country-fried chicken steak and eggs ($6.95), I see the dish of my fevered night-hunger dreams: the Sunrise Breakfast Special: two-egg scramble, bacon, potatoes, with three slices of ham, three sausages, three slices of bacon, and either pancakes, French toast, or biscuits and gravy, all for $6.95.
“Yes,” I say. “A Sunrise at the Sunrise.”
I pay for that and a coffee (a deal at $1.25, with endless refills) and head for a table. Choice of four booths or four tables inside, five tables outside. Kinda nippy — sun’s still rubbing his eyes at the end of Campo Road — so, inside, I think.
Before I sit down, Brent hauls me over to the window. “See Mount Helix? And the ring of hills? They’re the lip of a crater. We’re in the caldera of a volcano here. We’re made of blue granite. We leak springs everywhere. That’s why they call it Spring Valley.”
Now Brent gets to talking with his buddy Manuel. They’re both into antique cars — well, Brent drives a 1949 dump truck. Used to own 13 old trucks and 16 antique motorcycles. Manuel used to have 10 old Chevy cars from the ’40s, ’50s. “I did them up over about ten years, then sold them all, and with that money, I bought a house,” he says.
Manuel’s eating chilaquiles. (They’re $6.25 with home fries. “They do them best here — everything fresh.”) And now Jorge comes up with my breakfast. I sit down at a booth, hunker in. It’s a big tray loaded with a plastic plate divided into three sections. One has scrambled eggs with two cheeses sprinkled on top, another is loaded with sausages piled on bacon piled on ham. In the third, there’s a mess of home fries, bacon, cheese, and I don’t know what-all else. A spritz of Tapatio and we’re cruisin’. Oh, and there’s a second plate with biscuits and gravy. No jumping on scales for a week.
Jorge says he and Raúl came up from Tijuana maybe 30 years ago and worked in La Jolla at a place called Samson’s. But I’m betting that originally their roots were in Piaxtla, way down in Puebla, because they have a grilled sandwich called the Piaxtla Special, which is turkey, cole slaw, and cheese, with a “special dressing.” I’ll come back for that. Also the roast beef dinner for $6.99.
“How come your prices are so good?” I ask Jorge.
“Actually, we dropped the prices a while back,” he says. “People around here are hurting.”
Brent collects his fish sandwich and heads for the door.
“So, Brent,” I say. I’m scribbling on my napkin. “I reckon 500 squirrels, 300 trees, 40 nuts per day each, that’s 4800 nuts per squirrel, 8000 nuts per tree, 21/2 million nuts per year! Don’t you keep some to eat yourself?”
“You ever tried cracking one of those suckers?” he says. “Don’t. Not with your teeth, anyway. Teeth’ll lose.” ■
The Place: Sunrise Deli, 9945 Campo Road (at North Barcelona), Spring Valley, 619-460-5800
Type of Food: American, Mexican
Prices: Egg muffin with orange juice, $2.99; breakfast burrito, $3.50; pancakes with two eggs and bacon, $4.99; salami scramble, $4.99; eggs Benedict, $5.45; pork chops, eggs, potatoes, toast, $6.25; Sunrise Breakfast Special: two-egg scramble, bacon, potatoes, with three ham, three sausages, three bacon, plus pancakes, French toast, or biscuits and gravy, $6.95; Brandy’s salad (with pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds), $6.45
Hours: 7:30 a.m.–8:00 p.m., daily (till 3:00 p.m., Sunday);
Nearest Bus Stop: Campo, at North Barcelona