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Charlie’s Family Restaurant: “a wetter omelet is a better omelet.”

You’d swear you’d just stepped into a 1960s movie set.

Ancient American veggie dish: Mag’s Chile relleno
Ancient American veggie dish: Mag’s Chile relleno

He’s waiting as we come in: my window-cleaner friend Tim. His motto is “Your Panes Are My Pleasure.” Cheeriest chappie I know. He gets around, and he’s always steering me to the places near where he cleans windows, places like this one. But it’s more than that: “This is where I come after I do my local contracts,” he says.

Place

Charlie’s Family Restaurant

210 North Ivy Street, San Diego

A big oval sign perches atop a 20-foot mast outside, but honestly, it’s been blitzed by so many years of Escondido sun that it’s hard to read. I cross onto Ivy Street from Valley Parkway, and ah, finally decipher it: “Charlie’s,” it says. Oh yeah. And once I get inside, it’s fresh and clean, but still definitely your old-school coffee shop. You’d swear you’d just stepped into a 1960s movie set.

Tina brings my California Benedict breakfast.

Step-daughter Mag’s waiting, tapping her watch as I come in. “I thought we said four o’clock, Khun Paw,” she says, slipping into the Thai we sometimes use.

“Hey, that was some walk up from the transit center,” I reply. “And besides, there was action on Grand Avenue. They’re lining up a bunch of ancient tractors. Looks like the whole farm’s coming to town.”

“Welcome to Escondido,” says Mag.

Sponsored
Sponsored

“Anywhere is fine!” calls Tina from behind the counter. And yes, they do have plenty of spare booths, all cocoa-colored. We decide to sit up at the counter, where the action is.

Hm — action? This is 4:30 pm. Action’s on pause. But Tina the waitress says they’ve been at it since they opened at six this morning. I have to remind myself what a miracle it is for a big ol’ place like this to have gotten through the two years of Covid shutdowns and distancing rules. A lot of places didn’t. Good news, per Tina: they serve their breakfasts all day. And that’s what we want. It’s a good array, too.

California Benedict: avo, plus bacon instead of ham.

Omelets, hot sandwiches, burgers, steaks. Prices: reasonable. Looking through the menu, we note that even though you can get away with a breakfast of one egg, potatoes, toast and jelly for $6.55, most dishes cost more. “Reckon on twice that,” says Tim, adding that steaks are a risky deal. “I don’t mean here, but we’ve all had ‘guaranteed tender’ steaks that turn out to be chewers,” says Tim. Still, have to say, Charlie’s offers a tempting Spencer breakfast steak (“Spencer” turns out to be a West Coast term for a usually-tender rib-eye). It comes with two eggs and potatoes for $18.95. Or a top sirloin for $15.55. Good price! We’re tempted, but we head for other fields.

Tim’s the first to decide, because he always chooses the same thing, no matter where he goes: omelet. “I’m hoping for a wetter omelet than the last place I was at,” he says. “As my ma used to say, ‘A wetter omelet is a better omelet.’” He goes for the ABC omelet: Avocado, Bacon and Cheese. Dang. Sounds good to me too, except I’m also tempted by something called Charlie’s Special. “Two eggs, two pancakes, two sausage, two slices of bacon,” it says. And wow, costs $8.25 till 11 am, and then $9.15 for the rest of the day. Either way, deal! There’s only one thing, says the menu: “NO SUBSTITUTIONS.” In the end, I hanker for that hollandaise flavor of the Benedict with the ham. Costs $11.95. And hey, they also do a California Benedict which replaces the ham with bacon, and throws in avocado for $12.65. That sells it. I order one.

My buddy Tim mugs a freakout at his ABC omelet. But he ate the whole thing.

But it’s Mag who comes up with the most original meal. A true blast from the past. She’s been asking Tina what the daily specials are and Tina mentions something about “yesterday’s special. We have a few left over.” She’s talking about a plate of stuffed peppers and gravy mash. It turns out stuffed bell peppers are a traditional dish that has spread, more or less unchanged, over centuries and continents, everywhere from Khazakstan to Beirut to, by the 1890s, Boston, Massachusetts. The whole world seems to have adopted stuffed peppers. Bahrawn Shimla Mirch is an Indian version, pepper stuffed with spiced mashed potatoes, pimientos (or chiles) rellenos in Mexico. (And let’s remember, bell peppers originated from the Americas). Spain finishes in second place behind Mexico in doing this, but it was still one of the earliest adopters in Europe, specially in their Basque Country, with dishes like peppers stuffed with rice and saffron and maybe with chicken or cod, followed in the east by Turkey, where Dolma developed. (Dolma means “something stuffed” in Turkish and Arabic.)

Chef Alberto Gutierrez: dishing it out for 23 years.

“Ours are stuffed with hamburger meat, cheese and tomatoes,” says Tina. “That’s pretty much it.”

And when Mag gives me a nibble, it’s nice and tasty, but you’d never know the incredible journey it took to get here. Same with my California Benedict. Excellent hollandaise sauce, generous amount of avo, but nothing revolutionary. I mean, yes, the dishes we get this afternoon are muy tradicional. Coffee shop fare. Enough to give me a lightbulb moment. Wake up, man, it’s comfort food! Sometimes, it’s good to get relief from the trendy and exotic, and just enjoy chomping on stuff you’ve known all your life.

The one grizzle-grouse I hear comes from Tim. He’s looking at his split-open omelet. “See? A little dry,” he says. “Did I tell you about my ma…? She said ‘A wetter omelet is a better omelet…’”

  • The Place: Charlie’s Family Restaurant, 210 North Ivy Street, off Valley Parkway, Escondido, tel 760-738-1545
  • Hours: 6am-8pm daily (Sundays, from 7am)
  • Prices: one egg, potatoes, toast and jelly, $6.55; Spencer breakfast steak, with two eggs, potatoes, $18.95; top sirloin, $15.55;ABC omelet (with Avocado, Bacon, Cheese), $11.75; Charlie’s Special (2 eggs, 2 pancakes, 2 sausage, 2 slices bacon), $8.25 till 11am, $9.15 after; eggs Benedict, $11.95. California Benedict (with bacon, avo), $12.65; stuffed bell peppers and gravy mash, $13.45
  • Buses: 350, 351, 355, 357, 388
  • Nearest Bus Stops: Midway Drive and Washington Avenue
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San Diego in books - PSA crash, WWII doubles the town, Oak Tree Canyon, Led Zeppelin

The Secrets of Harry Bright, Mirror at the End of the Road, Brown Hills, Hammer of the Gods, "Port of Navy Wives"
Ancient American veggie dish: Mag’s Chile relleno
Ancient American veggie dish: Mag’s Chile relleno

He’s waiting as we come in: my window-cleaner friend Tim. His motto is “Your Panes Are My Pleasure.” Cheeriest chappie I know. He gets around, and he’s always steering me to the places near where he cleans windows, places like this one. But it’s more than that: “This is where I come after I do my local contracts,” he says.

Place

Charlie’s Family Restaurant

210 North Ivy Street, San Diego

A big oval sign perches atop a 20-foot mast outside, but honestly, it’s been blitzed by so many years of Escondido sun that it’s hard to read. I cross onto Ivy Street from Valley Parkway, and ah, finally decipher it: “Charlie’s,” it says. Oh yeah. And once I get inside, it’s fresh and clean, but still definitely your old-school coffee shop. You’d swear you’d just stepped into a 1960s movie set.

Tina brings my California Benedict breakfast.

Step-daughter Mag’s waiting, tapping her watch as I come in. “I thought we said four o’clock, Khun Paw,” she says, slipping into the Thai we sometimes use.

“Hey, that was some walk up from the transit center,” I reply. “And besides, there was action on Grand Avenue. They’re lining up a bunch of ancient tractors. Looks like the whole farm’s coming to town.”

“Welcome to Escondido,” says Mag.

Sponsored
Sponsored

“Anywhere is fine!” calls Tina from behind the counter. And yes, they do have plenty of spare booths, all cocoa-colored. We decide to sit up at the counter, where the action is.

Hm — action? This is 4:30 pm. Action’s on pause. But Tina the waitress says they’ve been at it since they opened at six this morning. I have to remind myself what a miracle it is for a big ol’ place like this to have gotten through the two years of Covid shutdowns and distancing rules. A lot of places didn’t. Good news, per Tina: they serve their breakfasts all day. And that’s what we want. It’s a good array, too.

California Benedict: avo, plus bacon instead of ham.

Omelets, hot sandwiches, burgers, steaks. Prices: reasonable. Looking through the menu, we note that even though you can get away with a breakfast of one egg, potatoes, toast and jelly for $6.55, most dishes cost more. “Reckon on twice that,” says Tim, adding that steaks are a risky deal. “I don’t mean here, but we’ve all had ‘guaranteed tender’ steaks that turn out to be chewers,” says Tim. Still, have to say, Charlie’s offers a tempting Spencer breakfast steak (“Spencer” turns out to be a West Coast term for a usually-tender rib-eye). It comes with two eggs and potatoes for $18.95. Or a top sirloin for $15.55. Good price! We’re tempted, but we head for other fields.

Tim’s the first to decide, because he always chooses the same thing, no matter where he goes: omelet. “I’m hoping for a wetter omelet than the last place I was at,” he says. “As my ma used to say, ‘A wetter omelet is a better omelet.’” He goes for the ABC omelet: Avocado, Bacon and Cheese. Dang. Sounds good to me too, except I’m also tempted by something called Charlie’s Special. “Two eggs, two pancakes, two sausage, two slices of bacon,” it says. And wow, costs $8.25 till 11 am, and then $9.15 for the rest of the day. Either way, deal! There’s only one thing, says the menu: “NO SUBSTITUTIONS.” In the end, I hanker for that hollandaise flavor of the Benedict with the ham. Costs $11.95. And hey, they also do a California Benedict which replaces the ham with bacon, and throws in avocado for $12.65. That sells it. I order one.

My buddy Tim mugs a freakout at his ABC omelet. But he ate the whole thing.

But it’s Mag who comes up with the most original meal. A true blast from the past. She’s been asking Tina what the daily specials are and Tina mentions something about “yesterday’s special. We have a few left over.” She’s talking about a plate of stuffed peppers and gravy mash. It turns out stuffed bell peppers are a traditional dish that has spread, more or less unchanged, over centuries and continents, everywhere from Khazakstan to Beirut to, by the 1890s, Boston, Massachusetts. The whole world seems to have adopted stuffed peppers. Bahrawn Shimla Mirch is an Indian version, pepper stuffed with spiced mashed potatoes, pimientos (or chiles) rellenos in Mexico. (And let’s remember, bell peppers originated from the Americas). Spain finishes in second place behind Mexico in doing this, but it was still one of the earliest adopters in Europe, specially in their Basque Country, with dishes like peppers stuffed with rice and saffron and maybe with chicken or cod, followed in the east by Turkey, where Dolma developed. (Dolma means “something stuffed” in Turkish and Arabic.)

Chef Alberto Gutierrez: dishing it out for 23 years.

“Ours are stuffed with hamburger meat, cheese and tomatoes,” says Tina. “That’s pretty much it.”

And when Mag gives me a nibble, it’s nice and tasty, but you’d never know the incredible journey it took to get here. Same with my California Benedict. Excellent hollandaise sauce, generous amount of avo, but nothing revolutionary. I mean, yes, the dishes we get this afternoon are muy tradicional. Coffee shop fare. Enough to give me a lightbulb moment. Wake up, man, it’s comfort food! Sometimes, it’s good to get relief from the trendy and exotic, and just enjoy chomping on stuff you’ve known all your life.

The one grizzle-grouse I hear comes from Tim. He’s looking at his split-open omelet. “See? A little dry,” he says. “Did I tell you about my ma…? She said ‘A wetter omelet is a better omelet…’”

  • The Place: Charlie’s Family Restaurant, 210 North Ivy Street, off Valley Parkway, Escondido, tel 760-738-1545
  • Hours: 6am-8pm daily (Sundays, from 7am)
  • Prices: one egg, potatoes, toast and jelly, $6.55; Spencer breakfast steak, with two eggs, potatoes, $18.95; top sirloin, $15.55;ABC omelet (with Avocado, Bacon, Cheese), $11.75; Charlie’s Special (2 eggs, 2 pancakes, 2 sausage, 2 slices bacon), $8.25 till 11am, $9.15 after; eggs Benedict, $11.95. California Benedict (with bacon, avo), $12.65; stuffed bell peppers and gravy mash, $13.45
  • Buses: 350, 351, 355, 357, 388
  • Nearest Bus Stops: Midway Drive and Washington Avenue
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