My waffle awaiting its final infusion of umami - maple syrup
7545 Girard Avenue, 2, San Diego
Rosemarie is heads-down in her book, Sex, Lies, and Serious Money, by “NYT #1 best-selling author” Stuart Woods. (“Reads like a remake of Family Jewels,” says the dust jacket). She can do what she wants here. She has been coming in ever since she arrived in La Jolla — in the 1950s. “I’m 82,” she says. “This is a part of my life.”
Rosemarie was a customer four years before it was even Harry’s. Harry J. Rudolph Jr. took it over when he followed his team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, to California in 1960.
Caught reading racy books!
“Since then, nothing has changed,” says Rosemarie, “except the prices.”
So yeah, 60 years, but the thing is, Harry’s doesn’t look all frowsy and cobwebby. It’s bright red and white on the outside, filled with light tan booths inside, plus a zillion photos along the walls, and you notice a lot of triple-generation booths, with kids and mom and pop and grandpa sitting together, and grandma pointing out, “This is what your grandpa and I would have when we were stepping out. Strawberry shakes!” Of course, she says, “They didn’t cost $5.99 back then.”
Hmm. Strawberry shakes. I am addicted to them, too.
Harry’s Coffee Shop sure brightens this Sunday morning. Neighbors, like the organic mattress joint and the Gloss Hand Spa, have just opened their doors to an empty street. But Harry’s is bulging, with a waiting line pushing out onto the sidewalk. I jump it because I’m willing to go to the counter rather than the booths. No probbo. For starters, you always get good conversation up here. First guy on my left is in software. Created companies, sold them, worked at Oracle. His office is 50 yards west, he lives 50 yards east, and this, his brekky parlor, is smack in the middle. Commute? What commute?
His breakfast today is scrambled eggs and bacon ($10.99).
Next guy’s a shipbuilder. Electric ships, think he says. Orders a waffle ($6.99) with his scrambled eggs ($2.99). The thing I notice is that the baristas all seem to know not just him, but everybody at the counter, by name.
This is when I spot Rosemarie. “I like a good read,” she says. “Don’t have to read the menu. Know that by heart.”
To see someone reading an actual book is kind of like time-walking. And to hear all the talk everywhere is...well, you feel like a bee back in the hive. “I see a lot of the same people, and a lot of the same food,” Rosemarie says. Today she had the La Jolla Scramble (“scrambled egg whites with spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, and cheddar cheese. Served with fresh fruit, $12.99.”) She has it with an English muffin. “And she always likes the muffin burnt,” says Tom, a staffer passing by.
Huh. Me too. Knew I liked her.
Lorena comes up. “Something to drink?”
“Coffee,” I croak. Costs $3.49 with endless refills. And what I like is she brings a cup and a coffee urn. Pours the first fill, and leaves the urn. She puts down this menu. Danged thing’s huge. We’re talking standard diner breakfasts and lunches, from steak and eggs and hash browns ($22.95) to chicken apple sausage links with two eggs and hash browns for $12.99, or corned beef hash and eggs. Also $12.99. Actually, this is the most common price I see. Not the cheapest, but ya gotta think about those La Jolla property taxes, I guess.
Oh Man. Not up to reading all this.
“Just tell me the two most popular breakfast dishes,” I say.
“Oh well!” Lorena says. She opens up the first page. “These two, right here.”
She points to two boxes. The first is the “Superfecta.” “Three pancakes, two eggs, two slices of bacon, Harry’s famous hash browns, and fountain soda, coffee, or hot tea, $12.99.”
Guess that’s not bad if you take out the $3.49 for the cawfee. More like $9.50.
But the one in the box next to it looks even more interesting. Named after some guy, B.W. Benny. “Golden brown waffle with bacon inside and on top, grilled ham, poached eggs, topped with our rich hollandaise sauce. Be bold and pour our warm syrup on top, $12.99.”
There are interesting things here: a golden brown waffle with bacon inside? Never heard of that.
’Course the Superfecta sounds like the deal, because you get drinks thrown in, but bacon plus ham, plus a kind of Benedict on top of a waffle? Have to go for that.
And so-oo glad I did. For openers, it has generous waves of paprika-dusted Benedict over the two poached eggs, two nice big rashers of bacon, a big slab of grilled ham, and the most interesting thing: the waffle it’s all sitting on. It’s thin, kinda crispy, almost like a pizza, in no way like a mealy Belgian waffle. And yes, it has bacon chips baked into it. Once you ooze the poached eggs into the mix, it becomes luscious, savory. And I make bold and pour the whole jar of warm maple syrup over it. So, sweet, savory, crispy, what more can you ask? I lean forward, pour some more from my coffee urn (love that!), look around at my discovery: now I know why the Sunday streets of La Jolla are deserted. We’re all here.
“Whoever this B.W. Benny was, he had the right idea,” I say to Tom.
“Uh, no,” Tom says. “‘B.W. Benny’ stands for ‘Buttermilk Waffle and Benedict.’”
Ho-Kay. You live and learn.
In the booth behind me, Rosemarie turns a page, licks her lips.
- The Place: Harry’s Coffee Bar, 7545 Girard Avenue, La Jolla, 8589-454-7381
- Hours: 6 am-3 pm daily
- Prices: Strawberry shakes, $5.99; La Jolla Scramble (egg whites, spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, fruit) $12.99; scrambled eggs and bacon ($10.99); waffle, $6.99; two scrambled eggs, 2.99; steak and eggs and hash browns, $22.95; chicken apple sausage links, two eggs, hash browns, $12.99; corned beef hash, eggs, $12.99; Superfecta (3 pancakes, 2 eggs, 2 bacon, hash browns, soda, coffee or hot tea), $12.99; B.W. Benny (waffle, bacon, grilled ham, poached eggs, hollandaise, syrup, $12.99