Up Front | Wine & Dine

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Breaking Out

Places | Perspectives | Happenings

From fried chicken and waffles to huevos rancheros to highbrow hotcakes, Laguna’s favorite breakfast spots run the gamut of a.m. fare. -By Hannah Ostrow | Photos by Jody Tiongco

 Your mother always said that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. She may have been exaggerating when she made you believe that you would die if you went swimming 28 minutes after you ate, but nutritionists and other reputable sources uphold the importance of a solid morning meal. So when you’re in the mood for more than a bowl of Wheaties, check out these local favorites for a fresh take on the breakfast of champions. After all, without your mom watching over your pre-pubescent shoulder, you’re free to use as much syrup as you want—and maybe even have a mimosa on the side.Ocean Avenue Eateries

Locals flock to Ocean Avenue’s two breakfast mainstays for fresh, tasty fare with ample al fresco seating. Serving breakfast daily until 3 p.m., Anastasia Cafe offers poached eggs five ways and gourmet omelets alongside sweeter items like Pain Caramel French toast, gingerbread Belgian waffles and Swedish pancakes topped with raisins, apples and cinnamon. Don’t miss the Anastasia Omelet, stuffed with sautéed mushrooms and onions, bacon and smoked Gouda, served with vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh fruit. Wash it all down with generous portions of fresh-squeezed orange and grapefruit juices. (470 Ocean Ave.; 949-497-8903; anastasiaboutique.com)

Just down the block, the charming Zinc Cafe & Market has long been drawing crowds both for its food and its community-oriented atmosphere. Try the granola, made in-house with coconut and orange zest alongside the more traditional ingredients: You’ll be a quick convert. If you’re in the mood for breakfast à la française, the daily rotation of quiches is reliably delicious. If you’re in more of a Mexican state of mind, opt for the huevos rancheros—a flour or corn tortilla topped with a poached egg, black bean chili, papaya salsa, smoked Gouda and tomato sauce. (350 Ocean Ave.; 949-494-6302; zinccafe.com)

Waterfront Brunching

Splashes at the Surf & Sand Resort serves breakfast daily, but the luxurious oceanfront location almost necessitates a more leisurely weekend brunch. Seafood seems fitting for a restaurant that sits this close to the Pacific; Splashes serves a lobster scramble with asparagus, caviar and crème fraîche, as well as eggs Benedict with optional smoked salmon and Dungeness crab add-ons. On the sweeter side: Nutella pancakes with huckleberry syrup and toasted hazelnuts. The menu changes seasonally, but high-quality American cuisine and a view worth savoring run all year long. (1555 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-376-2779; splashesrestaurant.com)

The Diner Darling

Penguin Cafe has been around for more than 40 years, and it’s easy to see why locals have supported it for that long: It’s good, reasonably priced diner fare whose quality ingredients and time-honored family recipes ensure that warm, satisfied feeling a tasty breakfast provides. They make all their sauces and salsas on site, which gives their south-of-the-border choices some added esteem. The chili and cheese omelet and anything with chorizo are favorites. Earlier this year, Penguin opened its own bakery subset: Bri’s Bakery now whips up mouthwatering breakfast breads, cinnamon rolls, muffins, bagels, pies, cookies and cakes. (981 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-1353; thepenguincafe.com)

Modern Classics

Known for gourmet burgers and creative takes on hearty American classics, Nick’s Laguna Beach also serves up a breakfast menu chock-full of equally innovative cuisine. The braised short ribs on the dinner menu are reinvented as short rib Benedict, served with two poached eggs and hollandaise. The Campfire Chili works its way into a hearty omelet, complete with cheddar, onions and sour cream. Other notable options: the oatmeal brulee, made to order with caramelized sugar, berries and cream, and the Southern-style fried chicken and waffles, done up with no hint of California moderation—sausage gravy, maple syrup and bacon all included. (440 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-376-8595; thenickco.com) LBM

Ocean Avenue Eateries

Locals flock to Ocean Avenue’s two breakfast mainstays for fresh, tasty fare with ample al fresco seating. Serving breakfast daily until 3 p.m., Anastasia Cafe offers poached eggs five ways and gourmet omelets alongside sweeter items like Pain Caramel French toast, gingerbread Belgian waffles and Swedish pancakes topped with raisins, apples and cinnamon. Don’t miss the Anastasia Omelet, stuffed with sautéed mushrooms and onions, bacon and smoked Gouda, served with vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh fruit. Wash it all down with generous portions of fresh-squeezed orange and grapefruit juices. (470 Ocean Ave.; 949-497-8903; anastasiaboutique.com)

Just down the block, the charming Zinc Cafe & Market has long been drawing crowds both for its food and its community-oriented atmosphere. Try the granola, made in-house with coconut and orange zest alongside the more traditional ingredients: You’ll be a quick convert. If you’re in the mood for breakfast à la française, the daily rotation of quiches is reliably delicious. If you’re in more of a Mexican state of mind, opt for the huevos rancheros—a flour or corn tortilla topped with a poached egg, black bean chili, papaya salsa, smoked Gouda and tomato sauce. (350 Ocean Ave.; 949-494-6302; zinccafe.com)

Waterfront Brunching

Splashes at the Surf & Sand Resort serves breakfast daily, but the luxurious oceanfront location almost necessitates a more leisurely weekend brunch. Seafood seems fitting for a restaurant that sits this close to the Pacific; Splashes serves a lobster scramble with asparagus, caviar and crème fraîche, as well as eggs Benedict with optional smoked salmon and Dungeness crab add-ons. On the sweeter side: Nutella pancakes with huckleberry syrup and toasted hazelnuts. The menu changes seasonally, but high-quality American cuisine and a view worth savoring run all year long. (1555 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-376-2779; splashesrestaurant.com)

The Diner Darling

Penguin Cafe has been around for more than 40 years, and it’s easy to see why locals have supported it for that long: It’s good, reasonably priced diner fare whose quality ingredients and time-honored family recipes ensure that warm, satisfied feeling a tasty breakfast provides. They make all their sauces and salsas on site, which gives their south-of-the-border choices some added esteem. The chili and cheese omelet and anything with chorizo are favorites. Earlier this year, Penguin opened its own bakery subset: Bri’s Bakery now whips up mouthwatering breakfast breads, cinnamon rolls, muffins, bagels, pies, cookies and cakes. (981 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-1353; thepenguincafe.com)

Modern Classics

Known for gourmet burgers and creative takes on hearty American classics, Nick’s Laguna Beach also serves up a breakfast menu chock-full of equally innovative cuisine. The braised short ribs on the dinner menu are reinvented as short rib Benedict, served with two poached eggs and hollandaise. The Campfire Chili works its way into a hearty omelet, complete with cheddar, onions and sour cream. Other notable options: the oatmeal brulee, made to order with caramelized sugar, berries and cream, and the Southern-style fried chicken and waffles, done up with no hint of California moderation—sausage gravy, maple syrup and bacon all included. (440 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-376-8595; thenickco.com) LBM

Breakfast Served Daily

Madison Square & Garden Cafe (320 N. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-0137; madisonsquare.com)

The Cottage (308 N. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-3023; thecottagerestaurant.com)

Orange inn (703 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-6085; orangeinnlagunabeach.com)

Coyote Grill (31621 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-499-4033; coyotegrill.tv)

Weekends Only

The Rooftop (1289 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-497-2446; rooftoplagunabeach.com)

Rock’n Fish (422 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-497-3113; rocknfishmb.com)

Asada (480 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-715-5533; asadalaguna.com)

Sunday Brunch

GG’s Bistro (540 S. Coast Hwy., suite 108; 949-494-9306; ggscafebistro.com)

Las Brisas (361 Cliff Dr.; 949-497-5434; lasbrisaslagunabeach.com)

Lumberyard (384 Forest Ave.; 949-715-3900; lblumberyard.com)

Motif, The St. Regis Monarch Beach (1 Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point; 949-234-3900; stregismb.com/motif)

Raya, The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel (1 Ritz-Carlton Dr., Dana Point; 949-240-2000; ritzcarlton.com/lagunaraya)

Mosaic Bar & Grille, Montage Laguna Beach (30801 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-715-6420; montagelagunabeach.com)

For even more options, turn to our Taste of the Town dine listings starting on page 106.

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