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NEIGHBORHOOD EATERY

Have Breakfast in the Park With Alice--Mother Would Approve

June 11, 1992|MARGE BITETTI

The homemade cinnamon rolls are reason enough to go to Alice's Breakfast in the Park. The aroma fills the restaurant. But Alice Gustafson also works hard to provide her diners with a cheerful home-away-from-home atmosphere.

Gustafson grew into her restaurant experience. Her husband, John, had long dreamed of owning one, and he personally selected what he expected to be a prime location at the end of the Huntington Beach Pier. In 1976 they opened the End of the Pier Cafe. Then the city offered them the opportunity to open a second location in the center of Huntington Central Park.

Breakfast in the Park opened in 1980, and it ultimately fared better than the End of the Pier Cafe, which in 1988 was destroyed by storm-driven waves. The following year, John Gustafson died, but Alice has continued to operate their breakfast eatery.

The interior decor at Breakfast in the Park is best described as eclectic. The main dining room has several nostalgic collections: there is a pigpen filled with stuffed pigs, a potbelly stove and stuffed animals. There are several aquariums, but no fish. Instead, Gustafson has filled her aquariums with stuffed cows, dolls and valentine's hearts.

The food is reminiscent of mother's or grandmother's home cooking. Omelets are served with home fries and toast; the orange juice is always fresh-squeezed. Only breakfasts and lunches are served here, by the way.

The "Park Scrambled" is made with three eggs, Ortega chilies, fresh mushrooms, onions and tomatoes. It is topped with cheese and served with home fries and toast for $6.50. Pancakes come to the table piping hot with a smiling happy face embossed in the batter. (The syrup, though, is served in a disposable pull-tab container. An old-fashioned glass syrup bottle would seem more appropriate.)

Lunches primarily feature burgers and sandwich items.

On weekends, it can take an hour to get a table at Breakfast in the Park. However, there is complimentary coffee to ease the wait. And to keep the little ones busy, feed can also be purchased for the ducks and geese around Central Park Lake.

Of course, Mary Beth's cinnamon rolls are always worth the wait. Ten years ago when Mary Beth Gustafson, daughter of Alice and John, first started making baked goods at the restaurant, she made only one dozen at a time and free samples were often passed out to interest the diners. Now, on a peak Saturday or Sunday, Mary Beth makes and sells 25 dozen cinnamon rolls. Mary Beth also makes mini loaves of wheat bread, sesame seed hamburger buns, raisin bran muffins, blueberry muffins, chewy brownies, and large, old-fashioned chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and peanut butter cookies. Unfortunately, there are no low-calorie, low-fat versions of the bakery and grill items.

The average breakfast here ranges from $2 to $7; lunches range from $2.50 to $8. Phone reservations are accepted and advised on the weekend.

The restaurant can be difficult to find. It's located in Central Park West, between Ellis Street and Slater Avenue, with its entrance on Edwards Street.

Alice's Breakfast in the Park, inside Central Park West, Huntington Beach. Open daily, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. (714) 848-0690.

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