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The Most Important Diner Hybrid of the Day

March 28, 1987|JEANNINE STEIN | Times Staff Writer

Mother always said that breakfast was the most important meal of the day, but she didn't say it was the chicquest.

But then Mom never went to the Beverly Hills Breakfast Club, where patrons eat with their sunglasses on.

The Breakfast Club (no relation to the movie) is the latest homage to the diner/down-home food/Americana hybrid restaurant. But the place isn't overrun with kitsch, making breakfast and lunch (the only meals they serve) a pleasant experience.

Since power breakfasting became a national pastime not too long ago, the see-and-be-seen crowd has been on the lookout for a new haunt. In the Breakfast Club they have found it. But you won't find an intense crowd of type-A's ripping at the Velcro bindings of their appointment books; there are some of those, but overall the crowd is hip and low-key. Most mornings the place fills up by 9; on weekends the rush starts around 11:30, and a wait for a table is almost guaranteed.

Gaining Popularity

For a little less than a year the BHBC has been sitting rather anonymously on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, gaining popularity by word-of-mouth. Its best advertisement may be the handful of people that can usually be spotted standing outside waiting for a table.

Inside, the retro look is carried out in the formica-topped tables and overstuffed booths in red, gray, black and white with touches of chrome on the bar stools and counters.

Patrons come for basic breakfast foodstuffs like eggs, red potatoes sauteed with onions, grilled ham, bacon, hash, waffles, pancakes and toast. Another breakfast favorite, oddly enough, is the Chinese chicken salad; lunch items include grilled cheese, tuna melt, homemade soups, a fresh fruit plate and chili with corn bread. Breakfast items are all under $5; the lunch menu ranges from $2 for a bowl of soup to a salad for $6.

Also tempting are the big sticky buns, oversized muffins, pies and brownies that sit on the counter in those chrome and glass cake stands.

There is a relaxed feeling here that takes the edge off the chrome and formica; on the walls are arrangements of boxes of Corn Flakes, Ritz crackers, tubby Velveeta cartons, cans of Campbell's tomato soup, boxes of Cracker Jack. Sitting on shelves, they become homey objets d'art, inviting you to appreciate them for their timeless design.

"I like the style of the restaurant," said Scott Wilson, dining with his brother Mike and friend Katherine Kunz. "As you can see, I'm into this kind of stuff," he said, shoving up his sleeve to reveal an antique watch.

Gazing and Watching

"I like Tony the Tiger--he's cool," added Mike, gazing reverently at a box of Frosted Flakes.

Most days the crowd is split between local business people and non-working types who linger over coffee and cappuccino and watch the world go whizzing by on Wilshire.

"It's great to have another breakfast spot in this area," one woman remarked. "There aren't that many in this area that have this kind of look. It's not really deco . . . it has more of a '30s streamline feel to it. And it's nice and airy."

"It reminds me of New York," said hair stylist Christian Harris, about to dash out the door with his to-go order.

"Some people call it a diner; some people call it a restaurant," said Harold P. Pruett, the affable host. "I'm not really sure. . . . I just call it a place to eat."

The Beverly Hills Breakfast Club, 9671 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (213) 271-8903.

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