The Southwestern Scramble: eggs with chilies, onions, and pepper jack cheese. Cholula hot sauce on the refried beans optional.
  • The Southwestern Scramble: eggs with chilies, onions, and pepper jack cheese. Cholula hot sauce on the refried beans optional.
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The Trails Eatery

7389 Jackson Drive, San Carlos

When Coco’s closed most of its San Diego–area restaurants in April, it put a kink in my family’s dining schedule.

It is my in-laws favorite place to eat, and I willingly joined them in their Sunday morning ritual of eating breakfast at the Coco’s in La Mesa in any of booths 5 to 13 — booth 4 was too close to the air conditioner.

A family friend knew our ritual was so sacrosanct that he called us “The First Congregation of Coco’s.”

The Trails in San Carlos is a popular breakfast spot (and the only one in the area).

The Trails in San Carlos is a popular breakfast spot (and the only one in the area).

When the restaurant closed, my family went through the steps of dealing with loss — grief, denial, bargaining — before we found acceptance. Or at least an alternative: The Trails Eatery in San Carlos near Mission Trails Regional Park.

Fans of the Food Network may be familiar with the place thanks to endless reruns of the eatery’s 2011 appearance on the channel’s popular show Restaurant: Impossible. That’s where host Robert Irvine comes to a struggling restaurant and changes its fortune in three days.

In 2011, The Trails appeared on the Food Network series Restaurant: Impossible.

In 2011, The Trails appeared on the Food Network series Restaurant: Impossible.

It worked. The place has been packed since then, and owner Stacey Poon-Kinney came in fourth on the network’s summer series The Next Food Network Star.

We have been to The Trails a few Sundays since Coco’s closed. There is always a line, especially after 10 a.m. That’s because they make good omelettes and have decent options for vegans or those eating gluten-free. The fact there aren’t many breakfast spots in San Carlos probably helps.

My mother-in-law enjoys the avocado, bacon, and cheese omelette. She likes that the bacon is crisp and in crumbles. My wife is happy with two scrambled eggs, potatoes, and toast, a simple breakfast well made. I usually get the Mexican-style dishes such as the chorizo or machaca scramble.

Most recently, I took my son there after a hike up Cowles Mountain. I got the Southwestern Scramble: eggs, chilies, pepper jack cheese, and onions, with tortillas and refried beans. It was a better meal than Coco’s at about the same price: $8.79.

$4 kids meal includes French toast, bacon or sausage, and eggs

$4 kids meal includes French toast, bacon or sausage, and eggs

He got the kids’ French toast, which came with a huge slab of thick bread cooked to the right level of golden brownness, served with bacon and eggs for $4, a bargain.

The Trails is located in a strip mall that was bland even when it was constructed sometime in the 1960s, but the interior has a charming mid-century vibe. The bathrooms have old exotica records hanging on the walls.

The downside is the long wait, and there no chairs outside where people can sit. But the waits aren’t half as long as Coco’s, and Trails does provide free coffee. Once you do get in, groups of over four are probably in for a tight fit.

Sometimes people will look at a place with a Food Network connection and think, This place better be the best restaurant ever. It’s not that, but The Trails does breakfast well, with good value, and it’s worth a try if you’re hiking at Cowles Mountain. And my in-laws are happy, though I’ve heard they’ve also taken to driving to one of the remaining Coco’s to get their fix.

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