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An Artful Place To Break The Fast

August 01, 1986|L. N. HALLIBURTON

I once did a mail art-performance piece called "I Want to Make Breakfast for You."

I imagined girls with long blond braids and lit candles on their heads bringing trays of steaming food up the stairs, dark-haired girls with pink plastic curlers and chenille robes making espresso, turning into a sea of Anna Magnanis. I conjured Otis Redding singing "Champagne and Wine" while someone served Mimosas. I noted that fried eggs are called "eyes" in Greek and that two cures for hangovers are supposed to be to put a raw steak over one's eyes or to just keep on drinking.

Recently I discovered the Beverly Hills Breakfast Club, a nifty place to break the fast. It's really pleasant to find a place that's artful without being terminally hip.

The decor is subtly post-Warhol and post-Moderne--from the sign out front and the bathroom's "Brazil"-like ducts to the all-American iconic soups and cereals decorating a large white pegboard wall. Whether you're in the airy front room or tucked away at the back, the booths are commodious (the small tables have industrial-looking but comfortable chairs) and the laminated table tops have witty designs. There are also two small counters with chrome stools, and meals can be taken out.

The menu is traditional coffee shop-diner and everything I tried was straightforward and carefully done. It's unusual to find such a low-priced, easygoing restaurant smack in the middle of Beverly Hills. Although it's been open only a short time, it's already been discovered: Be prepared to wait in line for a booth.

You also need to be prepared to decide whether you're eating breakfast, brunch or lunch, for the entire menu is served all day until 3 p.m. Is 2:30 too late for French toast? Is 11 a.m. too early for a sandwich of barbecued pork? The Beverly Hills Breakfast Club lets you choose.

We liked the barbecued pork a lot, even before noon--the thick smoky slices slathered on a big grilled bun. Corned beef took some time to appear--it was being made on the spot--and arrived herbaceous, crusty and pink. Airy blueberry and hearty spice muffins were freshly made, if too sweet. Eggs can be ordered with all kinds of accouterments (from avocados to chili ); they come with first-rate home fries.

I liked the Breakfast Club's interpretation of several standard plates. A Chinese chicken salad was graced with minute cubes of fiercely red ginger and a scattering of black sesame seeds. My friend, a man never given to hyperbole, announced that his tuna melt was the best he'd ever had. The reason? Fresh dill, lots of cheese and scrumptious sourdough bread. An excellent spicy meat loaf plate was perfumed with oregano and served with a classically right red potato salad.

Gazpacho was bracing and healthy, the vegetables lightly cooked. A fresh fruit platter was large, full of very ripe fruit and served with a liquid honey lime dressing that reminded me of lemonade. Cornbread is clearly packaged (why?--it's so easy to make from scratch!), though ennobled somewhat on the grill.

The Beverly Hills Breakfast Club has clearly been thought out. No ordinary coffee shop would serve bagels and Champagne, Neptuna salad and cranberry juice. The only problems are finding parking nearby and braving the crowd. The Breakfast Club is an artful enough setting for a performance, but the best thing about it is not its theatrics but simply its good food.

Beverly Hills Breakfast Club, 9671 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (213) 271-8903. Open Mondays-Saturdays, 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sundays, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. No credit cards. Breakfast or lunch for two (food only), $7.50-$15.

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