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Breakfast Downtown

Fullerton's Brownstone Cafe Has Become a Local Favorite


Welcome to the Hotel California. Long before its current incarnation as the Villa del Sol, this lovely downtown Fullerton building served as one of North County's most elegant lodges, the locally legendary Hotel California.

While pink champagne may not have chilled on ice during pre-Depression days of the mid-'20s when the hotel opened, the site then, as it remains now, provided a pleasant, quiet buffer from life's hustle and bustle.

While the old hotel is part of the town's folklore, the now-named Villa del Sol still thrives, this time as the heart of the old-town Fullerton dining scene. Here is the home of European fine dining at the Cellar, innovative Southwestern cuisine at Cafe Hidalgo, a sandwich-and-beer pub scene at Heroes, and a leisurely weekday lunch at the Brownstone Cafe.

Although only 3 years old, the Brownstone Cafe also has become the most popular old-town weekend brunch spot for Fullerton's tightly knit community. The allure is not just Brownstone's food but one of the most pleasant Spanish-style courtyard patios in the county. With its graceful arches, gurgling fountain and leafy green flora, this courtyard provides a memorable brunch setting.

Breakfast is served Saturdays and Sundays, and the Brownstone menu won't leave you confused for choices. Aside from some freshly baked goods, there are only four items to choose from--the Brownstone special of two eggs, seasoned potatoes, bacon or sausage; French toast; pancakes; and a do-it-yourself omelet.

Glenn Rhynes, who owns Brownstone along with his wife, Kim, and his brother-in-law Chris Pouch, said he sometimes prepares special off-the-menu items on Sundays, such as pesto omelets or frittatas, to add to the choices.

Such specials were not available one recent Sunday when we stopped by for a long breakfast with some Fullerton friends, who were more than happy to share their favorite in-town brunch site. Still, you'd be surprised how little more you'd need on a menu from what Brownstone offers. No one was left wanting.

The signature dish is the pancakes, stacked three high and covered with fresh peaches and whipped cream. For those, like me, who believe they make the world's best pancakes, Brownstone's efforts are still quite good, and the fruity topping adds a festive touch.

I particularly like the French toast, with "French" being the operative word. Rhynes uses a baguette and serves four slices on each plate. A baguette works particularly well because it doesn't get soggy in the egg dip.

Once in awhile, Rhynes said he'll use Bridgford cinnamon buns for his French toast, which sounds refreshingly different. Both the pancakes and the French toast come with a side order of fried potatoes. These wedge-cut potatoes are much spicier than most of us are accustomed to, as Rhynes pan-fries them with garlic and paprika. Although they are a bit oily, they do add a good zing to your breakfast.

And what would brunch be without an omelet? Brownstone features a standard three-egg omelet with optional additions of cheddar cheese, mozzarella, ham, bacon, tomatoes, avocado, red onion potatoes and mushrooms for 25 cents an item. This could make for some interesting combinations--the omelet eater at my table opted for mozzarella, bacon, tomato and avocado, and what came was a perfectly golden, fluffy omelet filled with the tasty ingredients.

To his credit, Rhynes doesn't hold back on the contents. For those who want a lighter breakfast, Brownstone features freshly baked items such as croissants and muffins. A side order of seasonal fruit is also offered.

The service at Brownstone comes at a leisurely pace, perfect for the sunny patio setting. For a city that has few distinctive brunch spots, the Brownstone Cafe just may be a new tradition in a building that has loads of history.

The Brownstone Cafe is at 305 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton. (714) 526-9123. Breakfast hours: 8 a.m.-noon, on Saturday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. on Sunday. Cost: $5-$8 per person.

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