To paraphrase an old Motown hit, "Summer's here and the time is right for breakfast at the beach." Actually, when Martha and the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street" was making its way to No. 2 on the charts in 1964, Jack Gabriel was buying a flower shop in Manhattan Beach and turning it into a restaurant. Thirty years later, Uncle Bill's is still among the most popular in that most popular category of beach restaurants, the breakfast place.
Located a block from the ocean, Uncle Bill's has the alternately laid-back and hectic feeling of a true beach restaurant. Hordes of regulars don't mind waiting for a table, don't bother to look at the menu and often don't even have to tell the waitress what they want--she already knows.
The food at Uncle Bill's will not finesse anyone with its subtleties and nuances, but the large portions of well-prepared breakfast and lunch fare, combined with the neighborhood feel and the location, explain why the faithful fill the seats.
The popular potatoes stroganoff ($4.25) are hash browns sauteed with bacon, and Jack or Cheddar cheese, topped with sour cream. If that's not enough for you, try the potatoes Del Riego ($5.25), named for a customer who wanted more on his 'browns. This version takes the stroganoff and adds avocado, bell peppers and onions.
Pancakes are also favorites; one contains chocolate chips, blueberries and cinnamon apples ($3.75). Among the omelets, the Expo '73 ($5.75) combines ham, bacon, sausage, cheese, mushrooms and onions with a meat sauce and sour cream.
Lunch highlights include the various grilled sourdough sandwiches ($4.75), such as roast beef and Cheddar or ham, Cheddar and Swiss.
Uncle Bill's Pancake House is at 1305 Highland Ave., Manhattan Beach. (310) 545-5177. Open Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.