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Daily News Cafe: looks like a breakfast-all-day

In our search for new variations, we sometimes forget how good the originals are.

Pepe’s Chili Cheese Dog at $12 gives maybe best bang for the buck.
Pepe’s Chili Cheese Dog at $12 gives maybe best bang for the buck.

“Dang!” says Kevin. “I’ve just spent $4000 on a filter system that produces alkaline water. I lived here in Carlsbad for three years, and never knew these guys were here.”

Place

Daily News Café

3001 Carlsbad Boulevard, Suite A, Carlsbad

He’s talking about this building that looks like it’s been ripped from a medieval village and plunked down in paradise. The look imitates the 12th-century houses in Karlsbad, the original Czech spa after which our Carlsbad is named. Why? Because of the water spouting up from below us. “Since 1882” says a sign touting the artesian well. The water is hailed as a “therapeutic Eden in a Glass.” Because, yes, this is also a world-famous spa. Before covid, people came to get relief from their ills by bathing in the alkaline baths from this well, which collects waters from deep underneath the Cleveland National Forest, near Palomar Mountain. “It takes about 9500 years for the water to work its way through the substrata to our artesian wells just one block from the Pacific Ocean,” says the website. Wow.

Carlsbad’s founding father, water discoverer John Frazier, 1883.

Just now, people are lining up beside distribution taps at a water vending kiosk with a pointy roof. So Kevin and I get a couple of bottles (at about a dollar a gallon!), take a couple of glugs. “Anti-oxidant,” it says, “sodium-free. Nothing added.”

“Fine, but how about gubbins?” I say.

“Say whu?”

“Chow. Slop. Food! I’m hungry, buddy! It’s nearly three!”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asks. We hop in his car.

“Hey! What about that?” Kevin says, a minute later. We’re a couple of blocks south. He’s pointing to a veddy British phone box. Red. There’s a building behind it, painted yellow, with river rock walls at ground level. And a sign on a black canopy, “Daily News Cafe.”

“Daily News?”

“There used to be a newspaper and magazine kiosk here. People would grab a paper and head on in for coffee. Every morning, rain or shine. Guess covid killed it.”

“Covid and a little thing called the internet,” I reply.

Guardian of the Water, Manuel Castro-Bean knows the history.

A minute later, we’re walking into a collection of restaurants, shops, boutiques. Smart but settled. A lot of chic people. Like Jackson, a guy we get to talking to. He has a serious cowboy hat. “Star of the West Hat Co.,” he says when I ask. “Black Hills, Rapid City, South Dakota. Beaver hide, $400.”

Me, I’m already sweating the prices for food here, even though the Daily News Cafe looks like a breakfast-all-day type of place.

And that’s what it turns out to be. A settled kind of place with somewhat expected All-American menu items, but with a sense of humor, too. Like, the breakfast section is titled “The Early Edition.”

The cheapest is probably the granola for $6, followed by the oatmeal for $7, which is just behind “Breakfast Parfait,” (fruit, yogurt and granola), for $8. And, only a buck more, biscuits and gravy for $9.

It’s on the mug: DNC’s 31-year history.

“No, come on, let’s be serious,” says Kevin. “I want a man’s breakfast.” The guy’s an ex-Marine. He scarfs his meals quicker than a python gulps a pig. Among the dozen “omnipotent omelettes,” one sticks out: the “King Neptune” has a luscious-sounding combo of lobster, crab, shrimp, and jack cheese. But it costs $17.

“Extra! Extra! Eat all about it!” cries the mini-headline for the breakfast burrito ($13 with scrambled eggs, bacon, jack, cheddar, and potatoes or frijoles). The jokes keep coming. “Egg-stra Ordinary,” for two eggs (“almost”) any style for $12. “Hot off the Press!” (Waffles, natch.) Waffle with fruit, including cinnamon apple — nice touch — costs $10. Not bad, dealwise. And “Crepe Crusaders” (“Wholly Breakfast, Batman!”) include crab and shrimp crepes with scrambled eggs and hollandaise sauce for $15.

“Think I’ll have that,” says Kevin, “and come on, man. Let’s be eating! They’re about to close on us!”

Beautiful mess: Norte’s huevos rancheros.

D’aaagh. Gotta stay cool under pressure.

Luckily, this is when I spot one of the best deals in the whole menu. The headline is “Man Bites Dog - and likes it!” It’s talking about a “really big all-beef hot dog.” Costs $9, with fries. But they also do “Pepe’s Chili Cheese Dog,” with so much “home-made chili, cheese and onions,” it “obliterates” the hot dog, and promises “a hearty meal” for $12. You get French fries here, too.

So that’s what I go for. Figure my plate has more bang for its buck than Kevin’s crepes, but he seems satisfied. Then I look away from his plate for one minute and they are history. My hot dog is big, but you have to fight to find it under the lava flow of chili.

And yet, if you can believe this, next morning, here we are, back again, in Carlsbad. We have popped into another eatery in this same cluster, Norte, started by a member of the family that runs Fidel’s, the 1960s eating and drinking institution still going in the hills behind Solana Beach. It’s famous for the Del Mar crowd that always seems to end up there, celebrating or drowning sorrows after a day at the races.

Norte’s the new kid. It began up here in 1976, practically yesterday. It has one of those traditional Mexican layouts, meandering through lots of colorful nooks and crannies. This time, Kevin goes for a big mess of huevos rancheros ($15.55), and I get a corn-tortilla taco stuffed with shrimp ($7.70). The huevos look fine, plenty of them in Kevin’s aluminum take-out container. (They seem to be avoiding using real plates here.) But my shrimp taco is da bomb. So glad we came back. The shrimp, garlic, and heavy corn tortillas mesh perfectly. Kevin noshes down on his eggs, Spanish rice, frijoles, onions, pepper strips, baked tomatoes. Basic, but basically appealing. In our search for new variations, we sometimes forget how good the originals are.

Kevin has us on our way in quick time. A cool wind sweeps past. “I’m thinking of doing a buying trip to the Black Hills,” he says. “Need some of that beaver skin.”

  • The Place: Daily News Cafe, 3001 Carlsbad Boulevard, Carlsbad, 760-729-1023
  • Hours: 7am-2pm daily (till 4pm, Saturday and Sunday)
  • Prices: Granola, $6; oatmeal, $7; “Breakfast Parfait” (fruit, yogurt, Granola, $8; biscuits and gravy $9; King Neptune omelet (lobster, crab, shrimp, $17; breakfast burrito, $13; Waffle with fruit, $10; crab, shrimp crepes, scrambled eggs, hollandaise, $15; all-beef hot dog, fries, $9; Pepe’s Chili Cheese Dog, $12
  • Bus: 101
  • Nearest bus stop: Carlsbad Boulevard at Pine Avenue
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Pepe’s Chili Cheese Dog at $12 gives maybe best bang for the buck.
Pepe’s Chili Cheese Dog at $12 gives maybe best bang for the buck.

“Dang!” says Kevin. “I’ve just spent $4000 on a filter system that produces alkaline water. I lived here in Carlsbad for three years, and never knew these guys were here.”

Place

Daily News Café

3001 Carlsbad Boulevard, Suite A, Carlsbad

He’s talking about this building that looks like it’s been ripped from a medieval village and plunked down in paradise. The look imitates the 12th-century houses in Karlsbad, the original Czech spa after which our Carlsbad is named. Why? Because of the water spouting up from below us. “Since 1882” says a sign touting the artesian well. The water is hailed as a “therapeutic Eden in a Glass.” Because, yes, this is also a world-famous spa. Before covid, people came to get relief from their ills by bathing in the alkaline baths from this well, which collects waters from deep underneath the Cleveland National Forest, near Palomar Mountain. “It takes about 9500 years for the water to work its way through the substrata to our artesian wells just one block from the Pacific Ocean,” says the website. Wow.

Carlsbad’s founding father, water discoverer John Frazier, 1883.

Just now, people are lining up beside distribution taps at a water vending kiosk with a pointy roof. So Kevin and I get a couple of bottles (at about a dollar a gallon!), take a couple of glugs. “Anti-oxidant,” it says, “sodium-free. Nothing added.”

“Fine, but how about gubbins?” I say.

“Say whu?”

“Chow. Slop. Food! I’m hungry, buddy! It’s nearly three!”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asks. We hop in his car.

“Hey! What about that?” Kevin says, a minute later. We’re a couple of blocks south. He’s pointing to a veddy British phone box. Red. There’s a building behind it, painted yellow, with river rock walls at ground level. And a sign on a black canopy, “Daily News Cafe.”

“Daily News?”

“There used to be a newspaper and magazine kiosk here. People would grab a paper and head on in for coffee. Every morning, rain or shine. Guess covid killed it.”

“Covid and a little thing called the internet,” I reply.

Guardian of the Water, Manuel Castro-Bean knows the history.

A minute later, we’re walking into a collection of restaurants, shops, boutiques. Smart but settled. A lot of chic people. Like Jackson, a guy we get to talking to. He has a serious cowboy hat. “Star of the West Hat Co.,” he says when I ask. “Black Hills, Rapid City, South Dakota. Beaver hide, $400.”

Me, I’m already sweating the prices for food here, even though the Daily News Cafe looks like a breakfast-all-day type of place.

And that’s what it turns out to be. A settled kind of place with somewhat expected All-American menu items, but with a sense of humor, too. Like, the breakfast section is titled “The Early Edition.”

The cheapest is probably the granola for $6, followed by the oatmeal for $7, which is just behind “Breakfast Parfait,” (fruit, yogurt and granola), for $8. And, only a buck more, biscuits and gravy for $9.

It’s on the mug: DNC’s 31-year history.

“No, come on, let’s be serious,” says Kevin. “I want a man’s breakfast.” The guy’s an ex-Marine. He scarfs his meals quicker than a python gulps a pig. Among the dozen “omnipotent omelettes,” one sticks out: the “King Neptune” has a luscious-sounding combo of lobster, crab, shrimp, and jack cheese. But it costs $17.

“Extra! Extra! Eat all about it!” cries the mini-headline for the breakfast burrito ($13 with scrambled eggs, bacon, jack, cheddar, and potatoes or frijoles). The jokes keep coming. “Egg-stra Ordinary,” for two eggs (“almost”) any style for $12. “Hot off the Press!” (Waffles, natch.) Waffle with fruit, including cinnamon apple — nice touch — costs $10. Not bad, dealwise. And “Crepe Crusaders” (“Wholly Breakfast, Batman!”) include crab and shrimp crepes with scrambled eggs and hollandaise sauce for $15.

“Think I’ll have that,” says Kevin, “and come on, man. Let’s be eating! They’re about to close on us!”

Beautiful mess: Norte’s huevos rancheros.

D’aaagh. Gotta stay cool under pressure.

Luckily, this is when I spot one of the best deals in the whole menu. The headline is “Man Bites Dog - and likes it!” It’s talking about a “really big all-beef hot dog.” Costs $9, with fries. But they also do “Pepe’s Chili Cheese Dog,” with so much “home-made chili, cheese and onions,” it “obliterates” the hot dog, and promises “a hearty meal” for $12. You get French fries here, too.

So that’s what I go for. Figure my plate has more bang for its buck than Kevin’s crepes, but he seems satisfied. Then I look away from his plate for one minute and they are history. My hot dog is big, but you have to fight to find it under the lava flow of chili.

And yet, if you can believe this, next morning, here we are, back again, in Carlsbad. We have popped into another eatery in this same cluster, Norte, started by a member of the family that runs Fidel’s, the 1960s eating and drinking institution still going in the hills behind Solana Beach. It’s famous for the Del Mar crowd that always seems to end up there, celebrating or drowning sorrows after a day at the races.

Norte’s the new kid. It began up here in 1976, practically yesterday. It has one of those traditional Mexican layouts, meandering through lots of colorful nooks and crannies. This time, Kevin goes for a big mess of huevos rancheros ($15.55), and I get a corn-tortilla taco stuffed with shrimp ($7.70). The huevos look fine, plenty of them in Kevin’s aluminum take-out container. (They seem to be avoiding using real plates here.) But my shrimp taco is da bomb. So glad we came back. The shrimp, garlic, and heavy corn tortillas mesh perfectly. Kevin noshes down on his eggs, Spanish rice, frijoles, onions, pepper strips, baked tomatoes. Basic, but basically appealing. In our search for new variations, we sometimes forget how good the originals are.

Kevin has us on our way in quick time. A cool wind sweeps past. “I’m thinking of doing a buying trip to the Black Hills,” he says. “Need some of that beaver skin.”

  • The Place: Daily News Cafe, 3001 Carlsbad Boulevard, Carlsbad, 760-729-1023
  • Hours: 7am-2pm daily (till 4pm, Saturday and Sunday)
  • Prices: Granola, $6; oatmeal, $7; “Breakfast Parfait” (fruit, yogurt, Granola, $8; biscuits and gravy $9; King Neptune omelet (lobster, crab, shrimp, $17; breakfast burrito, $13; Waffle with fruit, $10; crab, shrimp crepes, scrambled eggs, hollandaise, $15; all-beef hot dog, fries, $9; Pepe’s Chili Cheese Dog, $12
  • Bus: 101
  • Nearest bus stop: Carlsbad Boulevard at Pine Avenue
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