The humble omelet - From Balboa Park to La Jolla
At least 70 grams of protein a day. 22 for breakfast — that's a chintzy estimate of what we need, says nutritionist Adelle Davis. But with lamb chops at $1.98 per pound, calf liver at $1.39. and sole at $1.69, what's a body to do? Turn to the most concentrated and least expensive sources of protein — brewer's yeast, powdered skim milk, wheat germ, soy flour, and believe it or not, cotton seed flour? I suggest instead the modest 6 1/2c egg. Crack three, cast in some cheese, and (3x6 grams plus about 4) you've got an omelet quota 22.
Sampling Five San Diego Omelets from North to South
Bully's, Del Mar. That cozy, nosy pick-up booth-and-bar now serves breakfast from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a m., or so says the menu, but the door, we found out, wasn’t unlocked until 10:00. Even at that late breakfast hour the ordinarily jammed-tight Bully’s is empty, void, and unfortunately, even without a crowd the service remains the sullen same. The micro-mini hostess in Racquel Welch hair, dressed in deep decadent red to match the menu, asks bluntly, “Do you want a drink?” (the bartender's already on duty), prods halfway through the meal. "Are you finished yet?” and saunters away tapping her thigh to the piped-in beat.
Crab Leg Omelet, and I quote. “Like Something You've Never Eaten Before.” $2.95. S2.95? Yes. but the menu hastens to assure you that coffee as well as sourdough and German fried potatoes will be served as well. The Crab Leg — it's the most expensive, self-important omelet of them all. and the most disappointing, even disagreeable. It's a nouveau riche omelet created to impress all the new owners of the sprouting Del Mar condominiums, its 8 ft inch length having large chunks of crab and sweet pepper and tomatoes and onion on the inside and hollandaise on the outside. But there’s a wise old rule of thumb. Fish and eggs don't come together, and in this omelet it’s true, they never do. But take out the crab, cut the price way down, and the result would be more than acceptable.
The Gatekeeper. Prospect Street. La Jolla. From bourgeois wealth to organic food health. The Gatekeeper with its creeping Charlies and hanging asparagus tended by the plant people across the street, with its delicate carved wooden chairs, its dumb waiter, its sprigs of baby breath on the tables, its Peruvian harp music, and wide view of the Cove, with all this it's one of the most pleasant places to eat in the entire county.
Last Monday noon everyone, it seemed, was eating the raw cheddar cheese omelet and practically urging the people climbing up the stairs to the second floor to do the same. With good reason. It's one of the more imaginative and certainly one of the richest, perhaps the heaviest, ever made. “Three large fertile eggs from ground scratching chickens,” mind you. are included plus a stuffing of bright golden cheddar (aged over two years) and, gentle crunch, spindly bean sprouts whose taste is slightly fermented at the unsnipped tips, and all this covered with a lavish grainy cheese sauce made with potato flour, and this sprinkled with parsley, paprika, and sesame seed. It's served in its own casse-role (which I calculate contains a hefty 30 protein grams at the very least for $2.25) with lukewarm only-ok muffins on the side. At Bully's you feel required to order a bloody Mary with your eggs. Here it’s the opposite — a 1/4 litre of 100% unadulterated juice — apple-raspberry. carrot, apple-apricot at the not inexpensive rate of 65c.
John's Waffle Shop, Girard and Wall, La Jolla. Open 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The word is out that this small-town America soda-fountain spot has one of the best omelets around — their Chef’s Special which had better be something special for $2.05. Felix has been making it for the waitresses, he says, for some 17 years, and the story is that its reputation was literally spread by word of mouth. Customers would see it. beg for it. and two years ago it finally appeared officially in print on the menu. Why isn't it named after Felix? “I didn't want to be identified." he said, “but I'm the only one who can make it good, see.”
Sit at the counter near the far end with the cigarette-smoking chatty waitresses who arc taking a break and watch his deft French fashion. In one pan he tosses and sautes green onions, ground meat, green pepper, and tomatoes. In another he gets the two eggs going, briskly, briefly stirring, and then. FLIP. Adds a bit of brown mushroom gravy to the meat mix, and then, unauthentically, slides the eggs on top. A swish of salt. All very tasty, very buttery, very filling, a bit too salty, served with hash browns and toast which considerately arrives with its butter on the side.
The Rancherita, Bird Rock. There's a bright new yellow sign and a new decor in an attempt at giving what was once a clean, well-lit unpretentious family-style place. Atmosphere. Gone are the juke boxes at the booths. Now it's dark, now it's cantina with the booths transformed into wooden huts, now the menu comes folded horizontally with a gold Aztec medallion.
But never mind, the cheese omelet, the Best Buy in town, hasn't shifted character a bit. although the price has been gently revised upward to 95c. Even at this new price I don't know how they do it.
It's delectable, and beautiful, moist but not that terrible runny. A two-egg omelet made with a wonderfully stringy blend of Monterey Jack and cheddar, crumbly hoop cheese sprinkled on top. a slice of avocado here, a tomato slice there, and slightly crispy around the edges, mmm. Plus your choice of two corn or flour tortillas, these last coming folded in floppy quarters like hot napkins. Service is sometimes patience-thinning slow, but reflect, you can order this 95c bargain all day and all night long. There's no taking it off the menu, which is what most restaurants do, for dinner.
Cafe del Rey Moro, Balboa Park. Outside there's a spacious brick terrace covered with a yellow-and-white striped canopy and filled with faded paint-chipped patio furniture and the sound of running water. The Balboa Omelette. $1.95. is quite adequate — three eggs surrounding a spicy green chile the length of a hot dog and “laced,” as they so poetically put it. with the not-so-poetic taste, if not consistency. of cheese whiz. Consider substituting tomatoes for the french fries. Especially consider ordering one of their giant bowl-on-a-stem margaritas.
But omelets aside, come here for the park scenery, for the pageant on the terrace just below of summer couples in powder-blue being wed, and for your next-table neighbor's conversation. "Really.” said the short grey-haired lady from La Jolla, "when I go to the La Jolla Museum I'm just appalled at what is considered art." and then she lapsed into a story of the jolly time she had had. yes she had, at 1520 A.D. on her birthday. To the right a 30ish woman held three men captive railing at today's public for standing idly by while women were raped right and left. And meantime our waitress held forth on mysticism and how Jesus could, what do you call it, ascend, do all those trippy things because he was a traveler from outer space.
In Gulliver's Travels Swift tells of a ridiculous society divided into two distinct classes — the big enders and the little enders. At 80c a dozen, don't hesitate. Break a leg. crack an egg. at either end.