My chilaquiles. Breakfast imbibements in background
Hmm. Chilaquiles. Coffee. Beer. Beer.
My Sunday brunch.
Not just me. Guy on my right is downing a pint of “Dank & Sticky IPA,” think he says. Couple on my left is full-chomp into steaks, eggs, sautéed potatoes (his plate), and chicken, waffles, blueberries and strawberries, and gravy (her plate) as they cruise through a bottle of Salmon Creek brut sparkling “champagne” with a kinda milk bottleful of OJ. Mimosas.
This place used to be a 7-11 until two years ago
But this ain’t no glugfest. It’s totally civilized, even up here at the bar. Call it a Spring Valley breakfast. I found it only because this morning, two Sundays ago, I was heading for Campo Road and the Sunrise Deli, when fate stepped in. Rain. Needed shelter. Next to the Helix Pet Hospital, I noticed a new-looking sign. Said “Craft Kitchen.”
4253 Palm Avenue, La Mesa
Also, “Open for breakfast 8 a.m., Sat–Sun.”
So, hey hey! Change of plan. Dry out, wet whistle, eat here.
Now I’m inside this crafty, modern, very cool, crowded room with a kitchen on the right and a long bar stretching to the left. Guess we’re talking gastropub, right? The decor’s beer drinkers’ esthetic: lots of black, white, and scattered blackboards with beers listed.
I sit up to the beautifully varnished plank o’wood that’s the bar. It’s just turned eleven. Bunch of li’l chalkboards stuck on the white tile wall tell you what’s on tap. And they are on tap, all 30 beers. And nearly every one of them is locally brewed.
The other thing I notice is that each beer has three prices. Usually $2, $4, and $7, for 4, 8, and 16 (or 12) ounces. And great names like “Palate Wrecker,” “Dank & Sticky,” “Groundswell Undulation.”
Breakfast’s on from eight till three, Friday to Sunday. Rest of the week, it’s from eleven to one. Menu’s a dozen dishes long. They’re priced from $9-13. The $9 one is “Bee’s Knees,” basically yogurt, granola, strawberries and blueberries, banana, and honey.
Ray and Kristine
Couple on my left, Ray and Kristine (“with a K,” she says), are concentrating on their chicken and waffles and steak and eggs. Steak looks kinda modest, but Ray says it’s plenty. But Kristine’s chicken looks the fun dish. There’s the deep-fried chicken and waffles, and, hey, a coffee gravy. That’s a first.
Neighbor’s bacon-wrapped bratwursts. At $8, pretty good value.
“We paid $15 for the bottle of champagne and OJ for the mimosas,” says Ray. “Not bad when you compare it with, like, Brigantine, where we go sometimes.”
Uh-oh. Here’s the barkeep, Kasey (“that’s with a K”) armed with menus.
It has standard stuff, but with interesting twists. Like, the french toast features “brandy infused with bacon, turkey bacon, or breakfast bratwurst.” Costs $11. You can add strawbs, blueberries, or banana for $3 more.
Farmer’s Plate is eggs, bacon or brat, sautéed spuds, and veggies or fruit and toast. Also $11. Farmer’s Bowl’s a pile of the potatoes, veggies, brat, and eggs on top ($11). Lobster omelet is three eggs, lobster, brie, avo, hollandaise, taters and veggies or fruit. Looks like plenty, but it should be: costs $13.
“Which one will fill me the best?” I ask Kasey.
“Our Sunday special, the red chilaquiles breakfast,” he says. “It’s got a lot. And you can add a side of chicken for a buck more.”
Well, chilaquiles is traditionally a morning dish. It costs $10, $11 with the chicken add. I order that. And a coffee ($2, with free refills). And everybody else is doing it, so I get two beers. The smallest, 4 oz. snifter glasses. Benchmark’s Oatmeal Stout ($2), and Green Flash’s Palate Wrecker. That costs $3 because it’s 9.5 percent alcohol. It also rates 149 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).
My chilaquiles arrive. Kasey’s right about the quantity. A mound of corn tortillas has been fried and then a salsa added on top, plus crema. Cotija cheese is scattered all over them, two over-easy eggs and avo slices sit right on top, and a whole bunch of sautéed chicken breast strips fill up one side of the plate. I tip pots of green tomatillo sauce and a hot pink sauce plus chopped onions over everything, break the egg yolks, and make myself a hot, steamy, spicy mess.
Tomatillo sauce and avocado help kick this dish up into tastebud heaven
I didn’t really need the chicken, but it does give heft to the breakfast. The stout tastes porter-ish, I’d say, and is good, but the real surprise is the Palate Wrecker. It’s a great match to the chilaquiles and actually doesn’t taste that bitter. And you’d never know it had such an alcohol punch in it either.
Guy on my right orders two bacon-wrapped bratwursts for $8. Good deal. Come with two mustards, chipotle ketchup, and a cheese fondue side. He also orders Dankness Visible, an IPA from El Cajon’s Burning Beard Brewing ($7 for 16 ounces).
Kristine's chicken, waffle, and fruit dish
Meanwhile, Kristine and Ray and I are talking electricity. Ray’s an electrical engineer. Is designing the electronics for all those new buildings down by Petco Park. Kristine’s into avionics. Like, software for computers that tell pilots what’s happening with their engines, wings, wheels, whatever.
What I like: There’s a generous feeling to this place. The $2 beers, the way-big mugs of coffee you get, the free refills, the amount of food you get on a plate.
“Eight dollar baked mac and cheese,” says the Daily Deals blackboard for Monday. And, wow: that price includes any pint of craft beer. Tuesday’s tacos/beer for $10, Wednesday’s wings/beer ($10), Thursday’s a steak, roasted spuds, grilled corn on the cob, and beer for $15. Friday’s fish ’n’ chips and a pint for $9.
Feel energized as I head out. Just as well. Got that half-mile Spring Street hill climb before I can sneak a morning nap in the trolley.
It’s been quite a beereakfast.
4253 Palm Avenue, La Mesa
Hours: 11:00 a.m.–11p.m., Monday to Thursday; 8 a.m.–11 p.m. Friday, Saturday; 8 a.m.–10:00 p.m., Sunday
Ray's breakfast: steak and eggs
Prices: Breakfast includes french toast with bacon, turkey bacon, or bratwurst, $11 (add fruit for $3); Farmer’s Plate (eggs, bacon or brat, sautéed potatoes, veggies or fruit, $11; Farmer’s Bowl potatoes, veggies, brat, eggs, $11; lobster omelet (three eggs, lobster, brie, avocado, hollandaise, potatoes, veggies or fruit, $13; non-breakfast items include fish and chips ($9), mac ’n’ cheese, $8; Craft burger, $13; SW chicken sandwich, $11; two street tacos, $6
Nearest Bus Stop: Spring Street and Palm Avenue
Trolley: Orange Line
Nearest trolley stop: Spring Street (1/3 mile walk)