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The big, yellow sign stretched across the corner of El Zarape on Adams Avenue used exactly that word, "extravaganza." How to resist such promise? Feeling partied-out and in need of a substantial breakfast, I ventured out to the Mexican restaurant over the weekend. I had really forgotten just how exceptional the decoration is inside "the other El Zarape." Perhaps they went a little over the top with the whole Mexican folk art decor, but everything in there suggests quality. The tiling is flawless and artistic, the wrought-iron chairs have a pleasing weight, even the marble-appointed bathrooms have class.

All of which would be rendered moot if the breakfast wasn't any good. The extensive selection surprised me. There were a lot of conventional favorites (french toast and whatnot) as well as the expected Mexican flavors. A typically Californian sense of fusion pervaded the whole. Unexpected dishes, like vegetable-stuffed crepes served with eggs ($8.99) threw the occasional curveball into the mix.

A shrimp omelet ($10.95) was made of fluffy eggs stuffed with shrimp, cheese, and tomatoes. The whole apparatus had been topped with white sauce and sliced avocado. Although rich, it wasn't unmanageable. Steak and eggs ($9.99) included a small-ish portion of steak that tasted of carne asada but had the look of a sirloin tip rather than the skirt steak that's usually used in the preparation of the "grilled meat." Both dishes came with potatoes, which had been griddled with red and green peppers before being served cold, and a cup of chopped fruit.

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The cold side dish was something of a disappointment, but the preparations of both dishes were on point. Pancakes, french toast, or crepes with fresh strawberries, bananas, and ice cream would have spelled disaster for me, but it's worth noting that El Zarape hasn't neglected sweet breakfast.

The coffee was hot and plentiful and, had I been in the mood, I could have indulged in plenty of brunchtime cocktails from the restaurant's full bar. In the past, I've found that El Zarape's bar has exceeded the food in terms of quality, though the breakfast was both more reasonable and more satisfying than I remember the other fare as having been. With its cheerful ambiance, generous portions, and potential for sunrise drinking, I'd give El Zarape's weekend breakfast extravaganza (which begins ambitiously at 6:30 AM) my endorsement. Until now, the big El Zarape hasn't managed to make a compelling argument for itself as an alternative to the small El Zarape in University Heights. The bar has always been good, but the food always had the unfortunate designation of "not as good as the other one, but more expensive." The expanded breakfast menu might change things in the El Zarape family.

3201 Adams Avenue
619-578-2600

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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