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| Sunday Brunch

Great American Breakfast

The Omelette Parlor Delivers Farmhouse Charm--and Good Food Too

November 19, 2000|KAREN NEWELL YOUNG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Omelette Parlor is nearly impossible to find, but that has not hurt business a bit. Seems everyone who likes old-fashioned American breakfasts knows about this place hidden in a back corner of a strip mall off East 17th Street in Costa Mesa.

If you don't mind a wait (they don't take reservations), the Omelette Parlor is a good brunch destination, not just for the food but the atmosphere. The large dining room's early-American farmhouse decor provides an unusual backdrop for the Cyndi Lauper look-alike waitresses--multi-pierced, heavily tattooed, with bleached, spiked hair and leather accessories.

Among the Omelette Parlor's many charms are the references to early Costa Mesa history. Huge black-and-white photos of the area's agricultural years adorn the walls. Farm implements and other antiques hang from the ceiling. Milk containers and images of chickens and cows are everywhere. And the rustic booths that circle the dining room are great places to people watch.

Most of the omelets are named after people and places of Costa Mesa active during the 1980s when the restaurant, and its next-door neighbor, Chester Drawers, opened. Susan Adkins, who owns both establishments, says the dishes are named after people who were helpful during the restaurant's earliest days.

Mrs. Beecher's delight, for example, is a tribute to the former head of the Costa Mesa Historical Society, which loaned the black-and-white photos that were enlarged for the restaurant's interior. Another dish was named after the building inspector.

Many Omelette Parlor customers are regulars of the restaurant and the wonderfully funky bar next door. The clients of both are young, hip and loyal, according to Adkins.

But the atmosphere alone wouldn't keep these customers coming back. It's the huge, fresh breakfasts that keep this place in business. It's also one of the most affordable spots for breakfast or lunch. Our party of seven ate a huge breakfast for about $40.

The omelets are three-egg pockets of fresh vegetables, meat, cheese and herbs. The waffles are crisp and eggy, with a variety of fruit and cream toppings. For those who prefer lunch, a wide assortment of sandwiches and salads are available.

Our group enjoyed three different omelets: one with basil, mushroom and tomato, one with spinach and cheese and one with chili con carne. Each dish comes with a generous mound of tasty home-fried potatoes, a whole-wheat muffin and fresh melon and strawberry garnish. Another nice touch is the homemade apple butter that accompanies the muffin.

We also liked the Cashew Doodle Doo, a chicken salad made with celery, cashew nuts and cheese on wheat bread, and the Chinese chicken salad, made with snow peas, water chestnuts, broccoli and fried noodles. The Omelette Parlor also offers a dozen different burgers and a handful of appetizers. Cocktails are available, but no desserts.

If it weren't for that crowd of hungry customers waiting for your seat, the Omelette Parlor is the kind of place where you might be tempted to linger, sipping coffee, Bloody Marys or just watching the scene. But that would be cruel.

The Omelette Parlor, 179 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 645-0740. Everything is less than $5; omelets are $4.75 Open daily from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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