950 W. San Marcos Boulevard, San Marcos
I’m a sucker for corned beef hash. I constantly order it, and I’m constantly disappointed. It’s offered on menus in breakfast diners all over the country, and I feel like I’ve tried them all. Sometimes it’s boring and bland, sometimes it’s mushy, sometimes I’m pretty sure they just heated up something out of a can. I should have given up ordering it a long time ago, but it always sounds delicious to my empty morning belly.
Enter San Marcos. I’m rarely there for breakfast, but when I’ve met North County friends for brunch they’ve always suggested Mama Kat’s. It would seem other peoples’ friends are doing the same, because although it’s a fairly spacious restaurant, there’s often a wait.
It’s the kind of spot The Simpsons’ Moe Szyslak would describe as having “a whole lot of crazy crap on the walls.” The décor includes vintage advertising signs, antique kitchen tools, and smirky notices such as “Sorry…yesterday was the deadline for all complaints” and my favorite, “For those who feel the need to haggle, we will gladly raise the price so we can give you a discount.”
Discounts aren’t all that necessary. Prices are fairly standard for this sort of breakfast destination, usually between 8 and 14 dollars. Right at the very top of the menu, that corned beef hash is listed at $12. What’s a sucker to do?
Okay, I’ve considered biscuits and gravy, the cinnamon roll French toast, or simply a slice of pie (the diner’s other specialty). Frankly, if I lived closer, I would hightail it back there each weekend to delve into these things.
But the corned beef hash hasn’t let me down. While the potatoes are tender, they don’t take on the overcooked mushy quality that I’ve notice with so many hash failures. Neither are they overly greasy. But the key here is the corned beef — actual corned beef, baked first and cut into dice-sized cubes. These give you something to chew on while the potatoes cut the salty cured flavor.
I usually go for an over easy egg with my hash, but this time I opted for poached because I wanted the yolk runny and the egg whites soft as could be. Choosing biscuits here is a no brainer — they’re as fluffy as I’ve had in San Diego. A cup of coffee made with beans from longtime Carlsbad roaster La Costa Coffee completed the meal.
Little wonder this place fills up. Rumor is, the owners will soon knock down one of those kitschy walls to expand their dining room into the suite next door, where they currently have a retro arcade and gift shop selling coffee, sauces, and some of the house-made jams that worked so well on the biscuits. I’m sure it won’t be long before that extra space fills up, too.