Lais and Brian
1735 Hancock Street, San Diego
"Best Breakfast in Town Coming Soon.”
I’ve been watching this sign for months. We’re up on Hancock in the courtyard of 57 Degrees, the wine barn that hosts a monthly food-truck get-together. Not to mention a great Pirate/Irish band named Ass Pocket Whisky Fellas.
But the one thing they never seemed to use much was this front courtyard.
Fast-forward nine months: This time I walk by in the morning and the patio has come alive. I can see a jungle of potted palms with wicker furniture and great awnings that swoop like sails across the space. The plank tables look like they’re made from some ancient farmhouse. Good. Especially ’cause I hate clattery glass tabletops that places often have outside. What we have here is one of those patios you see in a style magazine, with little cactus plants in pots that you can use to stop the breeze from blowing away your newspaper or magazine.
I head indoors to this very white interior. The entire bar is white marble. Walls are white, interrupted by paintings that make you think Picasso. White high chairs line the long counter. “Save Water and Drink Champagne,” reads the sign next to an ancient green ceramic Bitburger beer-dispenser tower. They have big old pots and signs such as “Vins de Bordeaux,” “Château Jourdain,” “Birra Moretti Alla Spina,” plus thousands of glasses and a few bottles of wine around a studded gold “BAR” sign.
The art makes you think of Picasso
“We have just got our wine-and-beer license,” says this cute French-looking — and sounding — gal who comes up when I sit at one of the tables. Name’s Lais. She’s Brazilian. “We haven’t been open long, and we’re starting off with breakfast and lunch, and then we’ll be moving into dinners and late nights, too. But first we want to get things right.”
“So, what would you have for breakfast in Brazil?” I ask.
“Oh, mostly just bread and coffee. Not like you Americans.”
I like the atmosphere. All this white inside and green outside is refreshing. Here at the tables you get frosted carafes, cotton tea-towel-type napkins, and, great — coffee ($2.50) is organic, from Café Moto. “Our salads and eggs are organic, too,” says Lais. She says they do lunches like sandwiches and panini. The price, $9.95, includes a house salad, fruit, or soup of the day.
Hmm... Sounds like a good deal, but we’re not even at midday yet, meaning I’m up way earlier than my usual. It has to be breakfast or bust.
Ah. Here’s the menu. I see they divide it into “All American” and “All European.”
All American is basically pancakes, waffles, açai, fruit bowls, oatmeal, and “traditional eggs.” You get two “any style” with bacon, ham or sausage or organic soyrizo, served up with artisan bread. That comes to $6.95, which is the cheapest breakfast on the menu, along with the oatmeal breakfast. A lot costs $8.75, like the Two Berry Pancakes, which come with strawberries and blueberries, whipped cream and powdered sugar.
My problem with that? I’ve never been into pancakes big-time. Yes, good fillers, but only in emergency. Same goes for crêpes. They’re great and all and they have them here in the Euro section. Nutella crêpe’s $7.95, the Allegro ($8.95) is basically stuffed with ricotta cheese. And…well, this could be interesting: the cilantro crêpe al forno is “award winning,” unique-style baked crêpes stuffed with chicken, topped with mole sauce and Oaxacan cheese ($8.95). Sounds original.
And they have some interesting stuff on the “All European” side of the menu. For starters, you’ve got five variations on eggs Benedict, starting at $9.95 and going to $11.95 for the Lox Royale. They have an All Mexican section, too (enfrijoladas — breakfast enchiladas — are $7.95).
But what catches my eye is their cast-iron frittatas. They come with salad and bread. The Allegro Three Cheeses has white cheddar, gruyere, and goat cheeses. I go for the Allegro Ham ($9.95) because, one, I love the sizzle of a skillet in the morning; and, two, I like the ham-and-caramelized-onions combo it promises ($9.95).
A jungle of potted palms on the deck/oasis
But when the frittata arrives, big disappointment. Salad’s fine, bread’s good and rough, but, well, where’s the cast-iron skillet? And maybe I got this wrong, but where’s the sizzle? It’s just a smallish square of egg holding ham, bacon, red pepper, and a couple of melted cheeses together in the middle of a big plate with salad and bread. When the chef, Brian, comes up, he says having a hot iron skillet out here would be a fire hazard. I guess he’s got a point. Except, haven’t I seen skillets elsewhere?
Once I get chewing, it’s fine. But, actually, it’s another couple of weeks till I come back and get a really great deal. This time I go for an omelet. The last one. Il Proprio, make your own ($9.95). Pretty much anything on the list. So, I add bacon, chorizo, gruyere, sausage, and organic eggs, plus house potatoes, a well-oiled salad, avocado, and wheat bread. Maybe it’s because I eat this one out on the patio with the rustle of leaves, but, dang, that flavor-loaded omelet tastes so great. And so-oo filling. This’ll last me eight hours.
So, best breakfast in town? Well, the frittata maybe not, but the omelet? It was stylish, fresh, and organic. I’d definitely put it up there. Plus, I want these guys to succeed. They’re trying so hard. Guess I automatically worry because here on Hancock you wouldn’t think they’d get a lot of foot traffic.
I head out and back toward the old Mission Brewery and the trolley. Hate to leave the li’l oasis. There in those surroundings you couldn’t help feeling a little, well, elevated. Allegro, you might say.
1735 Hancock Street, Suite R, San Diego
- The Place: Allegro Bistro, 1735 Hancock Street, suite R, Middletown, 619-955-5711
- Prices: Traditional eggs (two any style with bacon, ham, or sausage or organic soyrizo, bread), $6.95; oatmeal, $6.95; Two Berry pancakes (with strawberries and blueberries) $8.75; Nutella crêpe, $7.95; Allegro crêpe, with ricotta, $8.95; cilantro crêpe Al Forno (with chicken, mole, Oaxacan cheese), $8.95; Benedict, $9.95; Allegro ham frittata, $9.95; Il Proprio (choose-your-own) omelet, $9.95; lunch sandwiches, panini, $9.95
- Hours: 6:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m., Monday–Friday; 7:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday
- Bus: 10
- Nearest bus stop: Washington and Hancock
- Trolley: Green Line
- Nearest Trolley Stop: Washington St. at Washington and Kurtz