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THE NEIGHBORHOOD EATERY

Cafe Capistrano: Small-Town Western

August 16, 1990|AMY McCURDY

Being in San Juan Capistrano is a bit like being in a time warp: It's a simple, refreshingly down-to-earth town in otherwise sterile and sophisticated Orange County. And it's a nice little place to walk off a big breakfast.

Cafe Capistrano exudes that small-town, Western flair, attracting customers with cowboy boots and turquoise jewelry. It's a cross between a truck stop and a country kitchen, providing a nice break from the trendy eateries that seem to plague more and more of the surrounding area. The sign on the door tells it all: "We are not fancy or expensive--just good food and service."

You can't miss the red brick building with its tile roof, located right across the street from the historic mission. The atmosphere is casual; you're invited to seat yourself and the people are friendly. For a view of the mission ruins (and good people-watching), be sure to sit by the window facing Ortega Highway.

In addition to the cowboy-clad clientele, you'll see all kinds: travelers, tourists, locals and families--donning everything from neon beachwear to three-piece suits. You'll see a few people reading a newspaper at the counter. Overall, it's an environment that seems to say, sit back, take your time, stay a while.

In keeping with its simplicity, the cafe sticks to a breakfast and lunch menu only, breakfast reportedly being the more popular (although the burgers are great!). It can get pretty crowded for both meals.

The menu selections seem decidedly down-home--"Bucky's Blueberry Pancakes" (the blueberries are poured on top) and "Mighty Good Cinnamon French Toast" (which is, indeed, mighty good). You can create your own omelet for $3.95, with an impressive list of possible ingredients, served with your choice of home-fried potatoes and toast, tortillas and beans, or biscuits. For the truly adventurous, there's the Capistrano Omelette--a favorite from the old menu, available upon request--a concoction of peanut butter, apricot-pineapple preserves and bacon that seems more of a childhood creation than something a grown chef could have devised. The more traditional breakfast-goer will be pleased to see "The Basic Big Breakfast," which includes the usual eggs and meat combination with toast and home-fried potatoes (or tortillas and beans, or biscuits).

Everything is moderately priced, and two can eat quite heartily for about $10. Be sure to leave your plastic at home--it's cash only. Just like the old days.

Cafe Capistrano , 31752 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano. Open daily , 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. (714) 493-0607.

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