7947 Balboa Avenue, San Diego
Well, this is a first. Here I am, cutting my omelet with a knife. But you have to, 'cause this little sucker is loaded with chicken breast and broccoli. No fork's gonna bust through that.
Not that it's tough. In fact, what a gunk fest! The hollandaise coating floods this half-moon of an omelet. And deep inside I discover an unterlaken of cream cheese. Oh mama. That gives it the tang it needs, zaps it up from a six to a ten.
Actually, the cream cheese was why I agreed to eat broccoli in the first place. We never got on, broccoli and me, unless Mom was there, cracking the whip. And did I mention this omelet's big? Has to be half a dozen eggs. In fact, with a couple of English muffins, a rock-pile of home fries, plus a whole jug of cawfee, it's one heckuva breakfast.
And it was all pretty much an accident. I was heading past the mind-numbing car lots of Balboa Avenue, when -- relief! A human-scale, half-timbered mauve-and-cream place, with a red shake roof and a welcoming sign. "Honey's Cafe."
Here's the funny thing. I'd seen an ad for this place in the, well, Reader. "Biggest Breakfast and Lunch in Town," it said.
So hey. Time to see if they can put my mouth where their money is.
The building has two doors. Right one leads to the Carriage House, which is, like, a bar. Left one leads into Honey's, a large, buttery cream-and-purple room with booths, tables, hanging pots of ivy, and ziggurats of glass blocks jagging out from the walls as room dividers. In the middle, a horseshoe counter with tall chairs for lone wolves.
I croak out a request for coffee, and presto, up comes this guy with an urn. He fills my cup -- and leaves the urn with me. Great. I see it costs $2.25, but for that, you get the urn and beyond. "All you can drink," the menu says.
Then this older guy with his hair in a ponytail comes by. "Want the morning paper?" he says. It's his. He gives it to me. Gee. Some places just have this feeling.
The menu is huge. Two big plastic pages of breakfasts alone. Joyce, a lady in the next booth, is ordering an egg scramble. Spinach, onion, and cheese. "But cut the cheese, and give me bacon and mushroom instead," she tells Cindy, the gal serving. Joyce says she's paying $8.79. Hmm. Seems like the same price, even with the substitution.
But, Lordy, there's so much to choose from. Two simple eggs with country potatoes and an English muffin are $4.99. Add bacon and it's $6.99. With corned-beef hash it's $7.99, and with a top sirloin steak, you're paying $12.99. Biscuits and gravy (two eggs, sausage patty, and potatoes) runs $7.99.
I like the sound of Krabby Cake Benedict -- two crab cakes on English muffins with two poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, fruit, and potatoes -- but, whoa, $9.99. I check the omelets. Cindy says they're all big. Straight, with cheese and spuds is $7.39. With sausage it's $8.19. "The Works" costs $8.99. For that you get I-don't-know-how-many eggs wrapped around sausage, bacon, onions, celery, tomatoes, different cheeses, sour cream, and scallions. But the one I like the look of is "Honey's Favorite," bloated with chopped-up chicken breast, broccoli, onions, and the magic-sounding cream cheese, all under hollandaise sauce and green scallions. 'Course, it's up there too: $9.19.
Oh, but there's also the scrambles, like the one Joyce is eating. Her "Oceanside" comes with bacon, ham, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, muffins -- and fruit, too -- for $8.79. And daggone it, there's a whole listing of "Eggceptionals," skillets that come sizzling to your table, country potatoes smothered in your choice of toppings, like bacon and onion, two cheeses, and two basted eggs. With fruit and muffin, they seem a bargain at $7.59. Oh, and a whole bunch of stuffed croissants ("Maria's Favorite" has scrambled eggs, diced sausage, and melted jack and cheddar cheeses for $8.79).
For a moment, I'm almost man enough to accept a couple of challenges from the lunch menu: the $9.69 "Stevenburger," a half-pounder topped with, uh, peanut butter, bacon, and two cheeses ("Don't be afraid!" says the menu), and the "Baja Eater's Special" (they'll double the patty-power on any burger, and yes, that's two half-pound patties) for $10.99. "Only the brave will succeed," the menu says.
In the end, I can't get that cream cheese hiding inside an omelet out of my mind. Yes, I'll miss the sizzling skillet, but that just means I gotta come back. Carla'd love this place.
Cindy says this used to be Brian's, before they moved down to Hillcrest. The new owners took over early last year, and they haven't skimped. "You'd never get this quantity back in the Big Apple," says Joe, a guy who just flew in from New York. He's chomping into a big wad of Denver omelet ($8.59).
Maybe these people do have a claim to the "Biggest Breakfast" in town.
And hey, Mom! Look, I've eaten all my broccoli.