Breakfast: The First Meal of the Rest of Your Life
By Antoinette May Herndon
Beginnings are important, don’t you think? Starting a new day holds special promise. That’s why breakfast bistros are so vital. They can go either way and take your day with them. One needn’t be fey to sense that a bad breakfast sets the tone for the day’s events to follow. A few restaurants scattered amongst the foothills are pretty awful. A few. I thought of writing about them: “Places to Avoid at Any Cost.”
Nearly did, in fact, but there’s still a little post-holiday spirit floating about. I’ve promised myself to be a better person and all that nonsense.
Here, instead, are honest raves. With Baby 2011 present and accounted for, resolve to start the day right. Could anything be more auspicious than breakfast on the town at one of these surefire winners?
FRANK’S (8085 Highway 26 at Highway 49, Mokelumne Hill. Phone: 286-1448.) Frank’s success secret isn’t about prices or even excellent food. It’s about people and service. Things were pretty bleak around Mok Hill last year when the Giourousis family closed their restaurant and went back to Greece for the whole summer. Imagine losing the town living room as well as its kitchen. In eight years, I’ve pretty well eaten my way through Frank’s extensive menu. I love it all but do have a special favorite, the Greek Omelet. All that feta, oh my!
CAMPBELL’S COUNTRY KITCHEN (Mar-Val Shopping Center at 200 East Highway 12 in Valley Springs. Phone: 772-2200. ) The smart décor is downright New Yorky, but that’s where the similarity ends. Everybody at Campbell’s—staff and customers—is invariably happy. You can expect lots of table hopping and cheery waves. The menu is varied—something to please everyone—but my particular favorite is the Ultimate Omelet. It has everything: sausage, bacon, onion, mushrooms, bell peppers and cheddar cheese. Perfect for someone like me who has trouble making up her mind.
AMADOR CAFÉ & BAKERY (26590 Hwy. 88 #3, Pioneer. Phone: 295-7794.) This place is capital
E elegant, a sophisticated bistro in a tiny mountain village. The man behind the magic is Robert Dasch, a former interior decorator. An artist surely, but you can hardly eat crystal chandeliers. Is the food good or not? The answer is: the Amador Café is fantastic. Consider the Two Egg Breakfast which includes a choice of eggs or sausage, English muffin and hash browns. An added treat is honest to goodness brewed tea. Just try it.
MEL AND FAY’S DINER (31 State Hwy. 49/88, Jackson. Phone: 223- 0853.) Mel and Fay Gilman opened their diner 55 years ago. Not only has the family business endured but it’s retained an original, mid century charm. Eating at Mel and Fay’s Diner is a time trip. Imagine rerunning an old James Dean movie. Even if you don’t remember Rita Hayworth or Annette Funchiello, you’ll love the nostalgic posters. Equally timeless are Mel and Fay’s Quarterback Sneaks, a favorite consisting of two eggs, two pancakes, two strips of bacon and a sausage patty. Or consider the chicken fried steak which comes with eggs, hash browns, and an English muffin.
COSY CAFÉ (277 Main St., West Point. Phone: 293-7232. Donna Clark, the café’s owner, does the cooking—excellent. Her daughter Nichole serves as does a friend, Marie Reese. The three women have a good time together and so do their customers. The Cosy Cabin feels like the town living room. Try the Gold Panner’s Special—ham, sausage and bacon fried with onion, bell peppers and fried potatoes topped with salsa and eggs cooked to please.
CAMPS (611 McCaley Rd. Angels Camp. Phone: 736-8181. ) The Green Creek Golf Course in Angels Camp boasts a stylish restaurant at it’s best on Sunday mornings. First off, Donivan Manaka, the bartender mixes a mean Bloody Mary. You feel confidant that the week is off to a great start before you even order breakfast. The bistro has an inviting clubby feel, a lively ambience that’s both warm and welcoming. You expect to be well taken care of and are. There are so many enticing items on the menu, that it’s always hard to choose. Still, my all time
favorite is the “Our Special Eggs Benedict.” Those eggs really are special. Think light creamy hollandaise with blue crab, served with breakfast potatoes and a luscious array of fresh fruit.
AND FINALLY, there’s the tale of two THOMI’S. The first, the original, is Thomi’s in Sutter Creek, a leafy grotto facing out on Highway 49. (40 Hanford. Phone: 267-1108.) Everything old is new again on this historic corner overlooking clapboard and brick buildings, part of a lively history reaching back more than 150 years. While sipping a perfect latte, it’s easy to imagine stagecoaches rounding the bend. An order of Spanish Style Eggs is almost a personal homage to history, don’t you think? It’s a make-your-tacos bonanza with three scrambled eggs, diced tomato, cheddar cheese, cilantro, green onions, avocado, pinto beans, sour cream and salsa served with corn tortillas. Mucho Bueno!
But there’s more. Thomi and Frank Renfrew opened a second café in Jackson’s Mother Lode Plaza. (627 South State Highway 49. Phone: 257-0800. ) This one’s definitely not geared to day dreaming. The “new” Thomi’s is an up and rolling breakfast venue. Think red and yellow walls, maroon drapes. Then, check out the cinnamon roll French toast served with two eggs and four slices of bacon.
Though very different in approach, both Thomi’s have their act together. The food and service are top notch at each. Both café are upbeat and inviting—just what one needs to start the day right.
Amy Brown is a distinct asset to Camps in Angels Camp.
Camps in Angels Camp is a stylish and inviting bistro.
Angelena (Mrs. Frank) and daughter, Dina, are a great team at Frank’s in Mokelumne Hill, the Giourousis family restaurant.
Frankly Frank—Frank Giourousis is the creative artist behind the café that bears his name.
Marie Reese is a featured attraction at the Cosy Café in West Point.
Thomi’s Coffee and Eatery in Sutter Creek offers a slice of living history.
Thomi’s Café in Jackson is lively and inviting.
Cassie Moore serving at Mel and Fay’s Diner in Jackson.