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Entries in Breakfast (31)


The Breakfast Club, Mammoth Lakes

Ready for a gut buster breakfast without having to wait in line with LA Hipsters visiting Mammoth?

Then look no further than the Breakfast Club at the first stop light in town and in the same un-cool parking lot as the Shell Gas Station. There are two more cool spots to go for breakfast, The Stove and Good Times Café. Base Camp Café is often frequented by climbers, but probably has a Hipster element because of the climbing aspect. When my dad worked Mammoth, he went to the Breakfast Club, so I’m assured it’s a Hipster Free Environment.

I went out for a brief trail run that morning before my long drive back to Fresno and I knew I wouldn’t have a proper lunch, so it was time to load the fuel tank with nothing other than Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs. I’ve had Chicken Fried Steak several times in recent memory; the gourmet version from Belvedere at The Padre Hotel in Bakersfield and wonderful representation at Tupelo in Santa Barbara.

The Breakfast Club version is more typical of The Eastern Sierra. Heavy on the sausage gravy and a biscuit the size of your head, but without the super-crunchy breading or premium cut of steak found at recent experiences in Bakersfield or Santa Barbara. The Breakfast Club brings Chicken Fried Steak back to its roots, a humble, rough cut of steak and plenty of gravy, for all the starch on the plate and all-day satisfaction till dinner time. Not to be overlooked, the hash browns were seasoned with more than just salt and were a wonderful addition to the plate, sopping up gravy and runny egg yolk.

I actually saved the biscuit for a 3:30 snack, along with some cold coffee I was holding on to in my Thermos for when I reached Highway 99 and my usual drop off in productivity.

I enjoy the Breakfast Club and I’m happy to return for breakfast.

Breakfast Club on Urbanspoon


Stellar Brew, Mammoth Lakes

Stellar Brew gets their coffee from Black Sheep Roasters down in Bishop, home of Spellbinder Books. I've always liked the coffee at Black Sheep and Stellar Brew occupies the old space of The Looney Bean, the once local chain. I've ordered breakfast items here in the past and probably have been here a dozen times. Solid breakfast items and coffee.

I ordered up an iced coffee on a warm afternoon in Mammoth. They gave me three shots of espresso poured over ice and water, an Americano Iced Coffee. Sorry, no pics, but there was still a "crema" on top of the iced Americano. 

I even commented to the barista who drew my espresso that I was impressed with her skills at keeping the crema perfectly on top of the ice in my drink. She responded by saying that it was important to her that the espresso always have a "cream top". 


Stellar Brew & Deli on Urbanspoon


Tupelo Junction, Santa Barbara

It was an easy decision to pick Tupelo for a late breakfast and a long drive north to Santa Cruz; that’s because the decision was made by my long-time friend, local resident, and cardiologist.


I wouldn’t have expected to find one of my all-time favorites, chicken fried steak, on a Santa Barbara menu. I would have expected egg-white omelets or something.

However, it makes total sense to have a whole crab claw garnish my bloody Mary cocktail. A welcome Bloody Mary it was. The spice came from chipotle pepper, rather than the standard Tabasco or horseradish. But the crab claw was made this cocktail special. I don’t think I’ve ever had a crab claw in a Bloody Mary before.


I’m rather fond of chicken fried steak. While not quite an expert yet, I need to eat and cook about 20 more of them, I do know that the use of a flank steak, rather than chopped steak or pounded round steak is a protein selection that has great merit. While I’ve eaten mainly cheaper cuts, the flank steak was a delicious beef cut choice.

Secondly, the fry job has to be top-notch. Chicken fried steak should have a crispy breading, just like great fried chicken. Tupelo didn’t disappoint. The fry job was properly done.

The third element is of course, the country gravy; and this is where Tupelo departs again from the American original. With a hint of smokiness in the country gravy, maybe a smoked paprika or more likely a little bit of chipotle in the gravy, made the dish pop. The gravy itself was creamy, as if it were made with heavy cream, rather than a thick béchamel.


I’ve said this many a time before, there is no substitution for classic technique and Tupelo executes each of the three elements, steak selection, fry job, and gravy very well. Where they choose to innovate and improve, flank steak and chipotle, they do remarkably well. 

Beyond having a tasty breakfast, it was good to catch up with a long-time friend.

Tupelo Junction Cafe on Urbanspoon


Walnut Avenue Cafe

A short walk from the iconic Dream Inn, The Walnut Avenue Café is a locals and tourists breakfast spot. I didn't feel like waffles or French toast, so I opted for carnitas, beans, eggs and salsa over tortillas. A big glob of food. A big mess on a plate. A deliciously messy glob of food on a plate.

This breakfast isn’t rocket science, haute cuisine, Mexican, American or otherwise.

This breakfast is something I might consider making at home if I cooked Mexican food the night before, drank one too many tequila, went to bed at 4am, woke up hung over to a bunch of unrefrigerated leftovers and needed to get some food in my belly as fast as possible so that the two Excedrin I took 5 minutes before don’t burn a hole in my stomach lining.

Suffice it to say, I finished my entire plate of food and was a better man for it.

Walnut Avenue Cafe on Urbanspoon


Guilty Pleasure, Bingo Doughnuts

I happen to love doughnuts. I’d never made doughnuts from scratch until I went to Italy and made bombolini. However, I do remember making phony doughnuts when I was a kid. Basically, you buy some Grands biscuits or some other vacuum packed biscuit dough, punch a hole in the middle and fry the ring in vegetable oil. A few minutes later, you have little dough balls packed with fat and sugar. Oh, yah! 

Doughnuts from a doughnut shop are far more ‘cakey’ than the vacuumed packed fried biscuit dough from my youth. Well made glazed doughnuts are a thing of beauty to me. It’s up there with vanilla ice cream and a bar of dark chocolate, simple goodness, without pretension. Be it the foodie elite or a 6 year old child, doughnuts are something wholesome and good. 

Bingo Doughnuts at 2am on a Saturday night were wholesome and good. They were fresh. They looked perfect. They were golden brown and slightly shiny from glaze. I’d almost forgotten about grubbing on doughnuts at 2am. I’ve been thinking about tacos or pho recently and forgotten about this late-night classic. The cliché of cops eating doughnuts and drinking coffee on the graveyard shift is engrained in our culture, but it totally slipped my mind. Somewhere in my foodie haze of tacos, I’d forgotten about an American Classic.

I’m happy that doughnuts are back on my late-night radar.

Bingo Doughnuts on Urbanspoon